Elegant Twelfth Night washes ashore at Rock Harbor

Written by John Watters, Barnstable Patriot

Mirthful mischief is fine entertainment

Some people are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them, Shakespeare’s Malvolio reads in a letter written to him (he thinks) by Olivia, the object of his affections. Those words provide apt descriptions of the actors of the Elements Theatre Company performing the Bard’s Twelfth Night in Orleans.

Sophisticated theater is Elements’ forte, and staging Shakespeare is truly its element. With a regal set and lush costumes the various actors of the Community of Jesus repertory company easily capture the essence of the comedy and revel in the fast-paced farce of mistaken identity and gender-bending tomfoolery.

A simple synopsis of Twelfth Night has Viola being shipwrecked on the shoreline of an unfamiliar land called Illyria. Her twin brother Sebastian was also aboard the ill-fated ship and she fears that he has drowned. Viola meets the area’s duke, Orsino, who connives her to disguise herself as a man, Cesario, and become a servant to Olivia, with whom Orsino is smitten. He hopes Cesario, can convince Olivia that he’s the man for her and everyone can live happily ever after. That would be simple, but that’s not quite what Shakespeare had in mind, as he adds layers of ancillary characters such as Malvolio, Olivia’s steward; Sir Toby Belch, her rummy uncle; Sir Andrew, a drinking buddy of Belch; and Feste, a very wise court jester. Combining these ingredients, along with a cadre of other supporting personae, Shakespeare creates a complex labyrinth of a tale which of course gets sorted out in the end.

The director, Sr. Danielle Dwyer, who also plays Malvolio, has things well in hand, keeping the comedy moving swiftly under full sail. Although the spectacle she creates is admirable, one drawback might be the expanse of the stage, which sometimes has the audience’s heads moving back and forth as if watching volleys of a tennis match. Her performance of Malvolio is extremely amusing, as her character finds himself the foil of Toby and his bunch of mirth makers.

Olivia is exquisitely fleshed out by Ellen Ortolani, who easily becomes the much sought after romantic desire of men of every station. Rachel McKendree is delightful as Viola/Cesario. McKendree is a sprite in her mustached identity and alluring as the lovely Viola.

Sir Toby Belch is robustly played by Brad Lussier who with tussled hair has way too much fun as he carouses with his band of merry makers Sir Andrew, nicely done by Kyle Norman, and Chris Kanaga, who is perfect as the all too wise jester Feste.

Like most Element productions all those on stage, which includes a cast of 19, are well-trained and well-rehearsed, which makes this tapestry of a play a beautiful vision to behold.