BY RUTH RICE
The psychedelic ’60s will be the venue for Shakespeare’s story of twins, disguises and mistaken identities.
Shakespeare’s comedy “Twelfth Night” will be presented by Band of Brothers Shakespeare Company at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and July 17-20 at the main pavilion in Stackhouse Park, Westmont Borough.
“Twelfth Night,” or “What You Will,” is believed to have been written as a Twelfth Night’s entertainment for the close of the Christmas season.
Shakespeare used a fictionalized version of Illyria, a purported ancient region on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea, as the setting for his play.
The setting is important to the play’s romantic atmosphere, and the sound of its name conjures up illusions and craziness.
This year, the company’s production goes to 1967, a time of peace signs, tie-dye clothing, incense, gurus, long hair and free love.
“It doesn’t matter if the audience doesn’t know it’s the ’60s,” said Laura Gordon, director.
“We haven’t done traditional Shakespeare since ‘The Merchant of Venice.’ ”
Gordon said Shakespeare companies depict the Bard’s work in different time frames to show that Shakespeare is universal.
Before the play opens, the audience will see the stage constructed in front of them and the actors putting on their costumes and makeup.
“All You Need Is Love” will play as the background drops.
Producer Brad Gordon is using music from The Beatles for the production, except for the opening storm sequence.
“Snippets of news reports and TV shows from that time also will be played,” Laura Gordon said.
When the play opens with a ship in a storm, The Beatles’ classic song “Yellow Submarine” will play.
“A storm means things are not in sync in the universe,” Gordon explained. “They’re out of alignment, and that reflects the tone.”
The interactive play will feature some audience sing-alongs and incense.
Viola, played by April Yanko of Johnstown, is shipwrecked on the coast of Illyria and comes ashore with the help of a sea captain, played by Dom Berardi of Johnstown.
She loses contact with her twin brother, Sebastian, played by Chris Smith of Johnstown, who also was on the ship and is believed to be dead.
Disguising herself as a young man and using the name Cesario, she enters the service of Duke Orsino, played by Justin Wested of Johnstown, dressed in a pink Sgt. Pepper’s uniform similar to that of The Beatles’ drummer Ringo Starr.
Orsino has convinced himself that he is in love with Olivia, played by Kelsey Walls of Windber, whose father and brother have recently died, so she refuses to see any suitor until seven years have passed.
Orsino then uses Cesario as an intermediary to profess his passionate love before Olivia.
Olivia believes Viola is a man and falls in love with Cesario, while Viola has fallen in love with the Duke.
In the comic subplot, several characters conspire to make Olivia’s pompous steward Malvolio, played by Robb Miller of Johnstown dressed as Elvis Presley, believe his lady has fallen in love with him.
The plot involves Olivia’s uncle, Sir Toby Belch, played by Tony Malvoisin of Colver dressed as Jimmi Hendrix; another would-be suitor, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, played by Lou Horvath of Johnstown; her servants, Maria, played by Amanda Fisher of Johnstown, and Fabian, played by Mike Walther of Johnstown; and Feste the Clown, played by Dante Horvath of Johnstown, dressed as a 1960s guru.
“Malvolio is a stick in the mud, so they trick him,” Gordon said. “Maria writes a letter using Olivia’s handwriting.
“It’s funny and crazy.”
Although the plot sounds complicated, Gordon said it is essentially about two houses.
Olivia is in mourning and lives in a psychedelic VW van, and Orsino is in love with her.
“Olivia’s house is a house of mischief,” Gordon said. “Her uncle Toby is a drunk and wants to pawn her for money.
“It’s a comedy, and there are several couples. By the end, they’re matched up and live happily ever after.”
After the company’s last two plays, which were serious and filled with death, Gordon believed the time had come for some laughter.
“We enjoy every rehearsal,” she said. “It’s over-the-top funny. There is a lot of young talent.”
The remaining cast features Illyanna Miller of Johnstown, a recent graduate of Greater Johnstown High School, as Valentine, a servant to the Duke, and Mariel Kramer, a recent graduate of Westmont Hilltop High School, as Antonia, a sailor in love with Sebastian.
Gordon is impressed with her cast members. They have walked down to the pavilion for rehearsals rather than drive their vehicles, gotten off book faster and not considered cancelling rehearsal even in the pouring rain.
“They’ve been inventive and creative,” she said. “Shakespeare forces you to be creative.”
Gordon had to cut much of Shakespeare’s prose to fit the production into two acts of about 50 minutes each.
Guests are advised to bring comfortable seating or blankets, picnic baskets and sweaters or jackets for cool weather.
Additional food will be provided by Ferndale Hockey Moms.
Band of Brothers memberships will be sold in the park.
There will be a shuttle service from Westmont Middle School, at Luzerne Street and Diamond Boulevard.
Bard in the park
What: Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” presented by Band of Brothers Shakespeare Company.
Where: Main pavilion at Stackhouse Park, Westmont.
When: 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and July 17-20.
Tickets: $10 general admission and $7 for students, seniors and military.
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