Twelfth Night Review - Midsommer Flight does Shakespeare Right

Midsommer Flight’s first annual Shakespeare in the Conservatory performance of “Twelfth Night” opened on December 4th and will run through December 19, 2015 amid the lush foliage of the soaring high-ceilinged Show House Room at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Conservatory, 2391 N. Stockton Drive. This delightful, hilarious and authentic version of one of William Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies is free to guests, and should be seen by anybody who loves rock-baroque string and flute music, beautifully trained male and female minstrel-actors, terrific period costumes designed by Elizabeth Shorrock and the Bard’s bawdy humor, insider jokes and famously familiar lines. The troupe works and plays together wonderfully and their enthusiasm is infectious. Although the language can be thorny going, the intent and gist of the dialogue, the actions and the scene were instantly obvious to all, and the impressive number of adolescents in the audience smiled and laughed along with the audience of knowing and delighted adults.

Meredith Ernst as Viola and Nick Loumas as Orsino

This is the troupe’s fourth season performing free Shakespeare in the parks of Chicago but the successful "Twelfth Night" is it’s first indoor production, already adding two special Sunday presentations to accommodate demand. Midsommer Flight is an arts partner with the Chicago Park District, and is “dedicated to presenting high quality, accessible productions of Shakespeare’s plays”. The company incepted in 2012 with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, after which they were honored by the Chicago City Council for “their dedication to bringing the arts to underserved communities”. Since then, they have put on Romeo and Juliet” in 2013,  “Much Ado about Nothing” in 2014, and “Macbeth” earlier this year.

Meredith Ernst as Viola and Kanome' Jones as Olivia

This early winter and special Holiday production, directed by Midsommer Flight founder and producing artistic director Beth Wolf features original music by ensemble member Elizabeth Renfro, and stars a cast of twelve actor/musicians, some of whom engage in skilled swordplay and other beautifully staged fighting, directed by violence designer Chris Smith, to great effect and loud applause.

Alex Maundy as Feste and Jared Dennis as Malvolio

“Twelfth Night”, or “What You Will”, is believed by scholars to have been written by Shakespeare in 1601-1602 as a comedic entertainment for the close of the Christmas season, the twelfth night. The action centers on a pair of twins, Sebastian and Viola, who are separated by a shipwreck. Both of them believe the other to be dead, yet both wash up separately on the island of Illyria, an ancient region on the Eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea, ruled by the Duke Orsino. Viola, disguised for protection as a young man, Cesario, falls in love with the Duke, who is himself deeply in love with the wealthy countess, Olivia, who spurns his advances. As the comedy unfolds, Orsino sends Viola, disguised as Cesario to plead his case with Olivia, who falls in love with Cesario, whom she believes to be a man. Ultimately, Olivia encounters and marries Sebastian while the Duke and Viola plight their troth, but not before several characters conspire in the name of love and tomfoolery, jealousy and interference. There are many musical interludes and much disorder as the characters make fun of one another, hide and laugh at each other, and proclaim undying love.

Meredith Ernst as Viola, Nick Loumos as Orsino and Kanome' Jones as Olivia

For those in love with Shakespeare’s lines, some of the more memorable included here which resonated with this reviewer include:"Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.Thy Fates open their hands". This was repeated as a refrain throughout this great production.

Meredith Ernst as Viola and Nick Loumos as Orsino

This play, performed in one of Chicagoland’s most endearing and exciting venues is recommended for all audiences but seating is limited, so make reservations early!

Adam Habben as Andrew Aguecheek and Chris Smith as Toby Belch

For more information, contact midsommerflight

Photo credits courtesy of Zack Whittington

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