Blood and Bodice, H+D Productions, Storyteller Theater, Twelfth Night
Orsino (Stuart Mott) strides on the set, his bellowing maroon silken half tunic rippling at every incisive gesture he makes, urging his tender aged servant attendant Cesario to his presence.
Espousing noble tenure, Orsino with much affection, whether smug, faintly sarcastic, or down right charmingly dorky, commands his boy to his slightest need. Cesario abides dutifully, though peevish, at times practically nervous. There lies some question of what dynamic really radiates between them.
A duet of local theater groups opened a masterfully delivered three act production of Twelfth Night over the weekend, a cheeky piece from Shakespeare’s repertoire of plays. Performed in the Thomas Moore High School outdoor commons, the production runs three more shows this weekend. A wonderful collaboration, H+D Productions and Storyteller Theater breathed the hot breath of artistic life into this show.
A Letter, A Love
On glen some miles away, Olivia (Bridgette Well) swirls in her well stationed life, surrounded by her handmaid Maria (Sasha Sigel), second relations Sir Toby Belch (Shanna Theiste), and a muse Feste (Tawnie Thompson). Olivia’s courtier Malvolio (Ethan Hall), a special breed of maniacal obsessive, deludes himself into believing in his conceit, as he caters all of Olivia’s favors.
Mercurial in his ways, Orsino surmises with certainty Olivia should be the Lady of his court. As any Lord would do, Cesario is given chore to deliver his masters purpose to Olivia. Receiving this message, Olivia prods Cesario on its suggestive designs. Cesario’s loyalty to Orsino and other demurely difficult ways, charm her. Alas, he stands but a servant.
Sir Toby Belch keeps some ragtag company to toy around, notwithstanding his fellow Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Eric Scherrer). Sir Andrews’ counterpart Feste (Tawnie Thompson) sides up to Maria whenever she can. The two of them become intertwined in their domineering friends’ machinations, entangling Sebastian (Glenn Widdicombe) and crossing paths with swashbuckling Antonio (Rachel Zembrowski).
Maria tries to humiliate one of the court, and Sir Toby Belch and Maria instigate fights between the whole lot. Meanwhile, Orsino becomes impatient with Olivia’s hesitation and approaches her in person with Cesario in tow. Olivia, having been enchanted on an earlier occasion by a gentleman thought to be Cesario, is visibly smitten.
Though Cesario pledges his allegiance to his master Orsino, the matter of Olivia’s feelings leave the situation unresolved. Viola (Hayley Cotton), a familiar acquaintance to Orsino, enters suddenly after attempting to flee her past. In the end, the audience is left to discern just desserts.
Beating the Beaten Plath
Taking a traditional swipe, H+D Productions and Storyteller Theater staged Twelfth Night in its given period. Although a choice that has fallen out of favor over the years, thankfully this directing duo failed to heed theater’s current aversion to traditional Shakespeare.
Director Jared McDaris staged each scene with purpose, allowing the actors to thrive. Each of the players represent each role with an impressive performative center; each character roaming their eyes and accentuating precise and choreographed gestures to convey their meaning.
Producers Hayley Cotton and Danielle Levings have plenty to be proud of in this show. The three act runs just over two hours with hardly a wasted movement. Their staging of Twelfth Night actually leaves you satisfied but willing to stuff yourself on pure drama. It’s minimal, allowing this exceptionally balanced cast to work their characters, and a brilliant overall production from two promising theater artists.
Twelfth Night performances will happen again Friday August 1 and August 2 at 6p and Sunday August 3 at 2p at Thomas Moore High School 2601 E Morgan Ave, Milwaukee. $10 admission. (Though obscurely sited, Its a modest and worthy courtesy).