The cast of Twelfth Night dances as Feste (Louis Butelli) plays his ukulele. Photo by Scott Suchman.
Viola and Sebastian’s ship wrecks at the opening of Folger Theatre’s Twelfth Night in a spectacle brimming with theatricality and grace.
The brief scene sets us in the early 1900s – at the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915, to be exact; and while the rest of the production may not hold up to its level of fury and mysticism, Twelfth Night is nonetheless a whimsical celebration of love told with musicality and charm.
Shakespeare’s beloved comedy of gender reversal, star-crossed love, and prideful folly fits almost seamlessly into the turn-of-the-century world, where roles are well-determined through both gender and class.
The cast of The Conference of the Birds at Folger Shakespeare Theatre. Photo credit: Scott Suchman.
How easy it is to drop out of the journey of self-discovery, with all the trials and temptations surrounding us. Yet how rewarding to stay the course. In the 1970s, a visionary director led his company through rural Africa, performing an adaptation of a 12th-century Persian poem about the birds of the world on a quest to find their king. The legacy of his artistic journey is best summed up by The Guardian‘s Michael Billington: “to reinforce the centrality of the shared experience, to clear the stage of clutter and to realise the need for ecstasy.”
His journey transformed theater.
However, I’m not sure how necessary it is to know anything about that director, Peter Brook, before seeing The Conference of the Birds, or even to know anything about the Sufi mystic who wrote the poem, Farid Uddi Attar, whom Rumi considered “the spirit.” Inside all of us is that same desire for total transcendence. Under the helm of director Aaron Posner, Folger Shakespeare Theatre’s production has a gentle, exquisite beauty that is as difficult and rewarding as that journey. It deserves more than one viewing, and will haunt the mind beyond. Continue reading