Let’s Get Physical, Shakespeare-Style

Yale music professor Grant Herreid whimsically played the court jester, Feste.
Yale music professor Grant Herreid whimsically played the court jester, Feste. // Rosa Nguyen

Under the rosy stage lights of the Yale Drama Coalition’s production of Shakespeare’s comedy “Twelfth Night,” Malvolio (Eric Sirakian ’15) fixed his exaggeratedly seductive gaze on the noblesse Olivia (Shunori Ramanathan ’13). In a futile attempt to court his beloved, he slowly, languidly slid up the hem of his caftan to reveal gartered stockings that screamed an unruly shade of yellow and embraced his sinews, leaving little to imagination. He splayed his legs, blowing air kiss after air kiss, while writhing sensually on the parquet stage floor.

Yep, the men of “Twelfth Night” never looked so good in tights (or without them, for that matter — Sirakian stripped his stockings by the end of the play, displaying what a bemused audience member behind me described as “very hairy legs”).

Directed by Yale theater studies professor Toni Dorfman, “Twelfth Night” centers around the character of Viola (Harriet Weaver ’13), a castaway disguised as a servant named Cesario, who falls in love with Duke Orsino (Nathaniel Dolquist ’14).

Still, the supporting characters were the ones to steal the show — the delightfully hapless Connor Lounsbury ’14 as Sir Andrew and (Whiff alum!!) Mitchel Kawash ’13 as Sir Toby, a convincing drunk whose wry comedic delivery gave the audience a serious case of the giggles. Lounsbury and Kawash were particularly memorable during a scene in which they pranced about the stage acting plastered. Shriek-singing “Hold thy peace!,” they beat a tambourine in the faces of startled audience members with more boyish enthusiasm than the Yale Marching Band.

Weaver and Ramanathan also gave striking performances. The former’s subtle acting was unfettered as she pulled a blanket closer around her huddled frame, staring contemplatively into the beyond with the sound of seagulls in the background. Ramanathan was regal (and decked out in full regalia down to her massive bling) with delicate mannerisms and a haughty air of sophistication as she rejected the affections of the love-struck Malvolio.

Yale music professor Grant Herreid whimsically played the court jester, Feste, demonstrating his skill with the lute and medieval guitar. Somehow, I didn’t find the juxtaposition of his civilian garb — a T-shirt and corduroy pants — with his jester hat all that weird. He’s just that good. In comparison, Sebastian (Sho Matsuzaki ’14) and Fabian (Alexi Sargeant ’15) were not as passionate or comedic.

Props (pun intended) to the design team, which crafted a lush setting for the fictional land of Ilyria, especially during the opening scene. Flashes of lightening, a crescendo of thunder, eerie blue lighting and the crash of choppy tides hooked the audience from the beginning.

The production was uniquely interactive with actors using the theater seating as an extension of the stage. I was nearly skewered as I sat in the front row during a duel scene in which the actors seemed to employ lethal swords (don’t try this at home). Malvolio threw himself on the lap of an audience member as he professed his love for Olivia. Who knew Shakespeare could be a contact sport?

“Twelfth Night” has free admission and runs through tonight at 8 p.m. at the Whitney Humanities Center theatre.

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