There was a free staged reading of Twelfth Night at the Shakespeare Theater (812 East Rollins Street.) There was an inspired twist to this performance which peaked my interest, the entire cast was male. In Shakespeare's time this is how the show would have been cast. In the beginning there was surprised laughter and murmuring in the audience but then as the plot unfolded people settled in and the honest and unaffected performances helped suspend disbelief. It became obvious that Shakespeare wrote the play with an all male cast in mind. Many of the comedic moment became even funnier knowing a man would perform the part. The play is full of women disguised as men and men disguised as women. Thus the audience had to accept a man playing a woman disguised as a man. This sort of multi-layering was surprisingly simple and fun to follow. I highly respect the actors who played the female rolls. They played their parts with dignity and grace never pushing towards stereo typical flamboyant feminine performances.
"Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. " I have heard this quote before but never seen it played out to its full comic effect. The words were uttered by Malvoio, played by Eric Zicot, is pretentious, ambitious and very full of his own self worth. Merry makers play a trick on him by writing a love letter that Malvolio believes is written by Countess Olivia, played by Timothy Williams, whom he serves as a steward. As he recites these lines about his greatness, he is strutting before his Countess like a peacock wearing outlandish bright yellow socks, and everyone knows Olivia abhors yellow socks. This over the top performance was the funniest moment in the play.
After the the show there was a question and answer session with the cast. Again and again women in the audience complimented the actors for how well they played the women's rolls. Michael Wanzie a pruducer, director and radio personality, noted how clever and funny the play was when performed soley by men. Added humor and heightened meaning comes to the play when performed by the male cast. It is as if Shakespeare is poking fun at the theatrical traditions of which he was a part. Romeo and Juliet will have a similar all male cast reading at the Shakespeare Theater on Sunday, March 13, 2011 at 7 p.m. Mark your new 2011 calenders, you don't want to miss it!