Shakespeare en Cuba

Twelfth Night

<i>Twelfth Night: ¡Hilarioso!</i>

Twelfth Night: ¡Hilarioso!

photo by bruce clarke

Rated 4.0

¡Qué una idea creativa! Setting Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night in 1950s Cuba is divertida y muy festiva—fun and very festive. Sacramento Shakespeare Festival director Christine Nicholson stirs Cuban seasonings (with a sprinkling of Spanish dialogue) into this madcap comedy about long-lost siblings, mistaken identities, male-female flip-flops and hearts gone astray.

This portrayal is of fun-time Cuba before the messy politics, and—though sometimes a bit silly, with cigars, conga lines and bongo drums—it’s all done in the Latin flavor of enjoyment y celebración. And since the original Twelfth Night setting was an island upon which our shipwrecked maiden Viola lands, it’s just a simple geographic shift. The island local is also perfect outdoor summer fare, and the Land Park amphitheatre set reflects this with palm trees, rattan furniture, flirty ’50s sundresses, sultry songs and colorful postcard backdrops.

And for added fun, director Nicholson does her own sex mixing in this gender-bending play by slyly slipping actresses in traditional roles written for men.

It’s almost not worth trying to explain the convoluted plotline which contains the unmistakable marks of the Bard’s broad comedies. But here goes: Viola and Sebastian are identical twins (as much as a girl and boy can be identical) separated by shipwreck at an early age. Viola, for reasons not entirely clear (and that don’t really matter), masquerades as a man and does such a good job that her master, apparently not too swift at recognizing a pretty girl underneath a Panama hat, makes her a BFF. Viola secretly pines for him, but is sent on an intermediary courting mission that goes awry, and soon everyone falls in love with the wrong people. Spoiler alert—everything works out in the end, twin finds twin, lovers find lovers and all’s well that ends well.

The cast is having tons of fun, which it passes on to the audience. The leads are a talented bunch—Laura Kaya (Olivia), Jason Jackson (Orsino), Bianca Doria (Viola), James Roberts (Sir Toby Belch), Michelle Murphy (Maria), Matthew Canty (Sebastian), Stephen Mason as the sad-eyed, much-maligned Malvio and a memorable Trina Palmer as the mustachioed Andrew.

As one of the characters declares at one point, this Twelfth Night is ¡fantástico! The only thing missing in this cool Cuban summer evening is a tall, refreshing mojito.