Encore Michigan

Enjoy this “Night” out at Slipstream

EncoreMedia ReviewReview December 14, 2015 Martin F. Kohn

Among other things, Slipstream Theatre Initiative makes it a practice to edit and rework plays by Shakespeare and Bailey Boudreau’s staging of Twelfth Night is no exception. The title refers to Epiphany, the 12th day after Christmas, traditionally a time for festivity and merriment. But the production brings to mind a question from another holiday: Why is this Night different from all other Nights?

TWELFTH-NIGHT--SLIPSTREAMFor starters, there’s the show before the show, which involves a fortune-teller (Tiaja Sabrie who plays the sea captain Antonia—Antonio in the original) in the lobby and provides a hint of the circus-like atmosphere we’re about to enter. For finishers, there’s a happier fate in store for bamboozled Malvolio at the curtain call.

In between, there is much to consider and enjoy, including Steve Xander Carson’s always-in-tipsy-motion portrayal of drunken reveler Sir Toby Belch (complete with a burp or two), Luna Alexander’s detailed and endearing depiction of Viola, the one disguised as a man most of the time, and Laura Heikkinen’s solid performance as Olivia who apparently has a side gig modeling the spring collection from Frederick’s of Illyria.

Speaking of attire, director Boudreau also designed the striking costumes, some of which are the well-tailored suit of Duke Orsino (Patrick Flanagan), Sir Toby’s birdlike accoutrements, the aforementioned corsets and lingerie of Olivia and the glittery garb of Joshua Daniel Palmer who plays the fool, Feste, and the ringmaster of the evening’s doings.

Boudreau’s Twelfth Night clocks in at a breezy hour-and-a-half without intermission and there is much to tell. A number of minor characters fail to make the cut—no great loss—but it’s still a lot of plot to pack into 90 minutes.

Duke Orsino is in love with the lady Olivia, but she is in mourning for her brother and will have none of him—or anyone. Meanwhile Viola and her twin brother Sebastian (Ryan Ernst) are in a shipwreck; Viola survives and presumes Sebastian to be dead (hint: there are many shipwrecks in Shakespeare, everyone important survives).

Washing up on the coast of Illyria, Viola disguises herself as a young man and becomes the trusted servant of Duke Orsino (whom she falls in love with). Orsino has the servant (Viola) deliver Orsino’s messages of love to Olivia. Olivia falls in love with Viola disguised as a young mane.

Okay, enough. Except that Olivia’s steward, Malvolio, is a stuffed shirt (played with self-righteousness by Graham Todd), and three gleeful pranksters—Sir Toby (Olivia’s uncle), his friend Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Miles Bond) and Olivia’s servant Maria (Victoria Weatherspoon) conspire to embarrass Malvolio.

That all this occurs in engaging and more-or-less coherent fashion is a credit to the editing by Boudreau and anyone else involved. But there is a concomitant loss: Shakespeare was a word guy as well as a plot guy and some of his language is of necessity cast aside. This may or may not come as welcome news.

Ironically, Twelfth Night has a long tradition of untraditional productions (a 1998 New York production featured a swimming pool), so Slipstream’s staging stands apart and fits right in. Enjoy.

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