Twelfth Night by Mu Performing Arts performing at Mixed Blood

Alex Galick, Randy Reyes, Eric "Pogi" Sumangil in Twelfth Night. Photo by Keri Pickett.

Alex Galick, Randy Reyes, Eric “Pogi” Sumangil in Twelfth Night. Photo by Keri Pickett.

I’ve never seen the Mixed Blood stage looking so good. The space is arranged arena style, stage painted a nice warm color, with a few tastefully placed platforms, some truly lovely Vietnamese lights, a few sit-upons. The set for Mu’s delightful Twelfth Night (Mu Performing Arts at Mixed Blood Theater, through June 14) is credited to “Theresa Akers and Bedlam Productions.” Lights are by Karin Olson, costumes by Stacy Palmer, props by Abbee Warmboe. Wonderful.

Nifty also is the Asian-style (I use this word advisedly; I don’t in fact know if what I heard is, in origin, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, all of the above) music, composed and directed by Jason Hansen. His music propels the play, gives the proceedings luscious flavor and no way interferes. Also wonderful.

You likely know at least something about William Shakespeare‘s plot for Twelfth Night: Viola, shipwrecked, finds herself washed up in Illyria (Yugoslavia, BCE, for the geographically challenged; I know where it is because I looked it up on God’s great gift to computer users, Wikipedia). Viola has been separated from her sainted brother, Sebastian.

So she dresses up as a man. “Do I look,” Viola asks, unshakespeareanly, “like a guy?” No, but certainly you’ll get no complaints from me.

So: why does Viola engage in this cross-dressing? Well, frankly, I don’t, ahem, really know. But who cares? It allows V to launch herself into Illyria, falling in love (immediately) with the stern Duke (he of the famous “If music be the food of love, play on”); allowing Olivia to (immediately) fall in love with her; meeting the drunken mechanicals, Toby Belch and Andrew Aguecheek, as they try, semi-successfully, to hold their liquor; meeting the elfin fool, Feste; Olivia’s egotistical personal assistants Maria and the painfully funny Malvolio. At the end V is (surprise!) reunited with her brother, weddings happen, and a tuneful song is sung.

Twelfth Night may not make a lot of sense, but it’s great fun and it’s a playground for actors and the Mu production, zestfully directed by Mu artistic director Randy Reyes (who also plays Feste) takes full advantage of the opportunities Shakespeare provides:

Eric “Pogi” Sumangil plays Sir Belch with stage-stomping physicality, never quite sober. The lean and athletic Alex Galick does Sir Andrew Aguecheek with a slightly fey hysteria that delights. Reyes plays Feste with mischievous intelligence. Eric Sharp has one of those faces that make you giggle; his Malvolio makes giggling segue into outright screaming. Stephanie Bertumen‘s Viola holds her own against the madness swirling around her, a tribute to Bertumen’s pure charisma. Francesca McKenskie is powerfully frisky as Olivia, ditto Su-Yoon Ko as Maria, Audrey Park is lovely as the dour Duke. Etcetera: apologies to anyone I’ve left out. I’m out of space.  Everyone is a marvel.

“How runs this dream?” Sebastian asks in a nicely misplaced paraphrase. Well, see Twelfth Night and find out. I daresay you’ll have a grand time.

John Olive is a writer living in Minneapolis. His book Tell Me A Story In The Dark has recently been published by Familius, Inc. For further info, please visit www.johnolive.net.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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