Milwaukee Shakespeare opened “Twelfth Night” this weekend at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts in Brookfield. It was my first experience with the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center, as well as with Shakespeare, and it was a pleasant one, at that.
After the first five minutes of retuning my brain to Shakespearean English, I found that the play was easy to follow, and that I should not have worried about needing to “work too hard” while taking in a bit of entertainment. I began to actually enjoy the poetry of the language and discovered it littered with jewels -- universal truths -- which I hurried to jot down, but gave up on writing so as not to miss out on anything. That must be why people also enjoy reading Shakespeare; the text allows you to hold and savor each phrase a bit longer.
The story of the play was engaging enough: the maiden Viola dons the clothing of a man and sets off to seek her fortune after losing everything (save her life) in a terrible shipwreck. She obtains employment in serving the Duke Orsino of Illyria and works to win the heart of the countess Olivia in his name. Much confusion and foolery ensue.
Mark Dold does as memorable job of portraying Malvolio, Olivia's uptight servant who is tricked by his cohorts into donning yellow stockings and acting a fool. The musical component is skillfully incorporated primarily by Robert Spencer, who plays Feste, the clown. Tami Workentin also imbued her character Maria with a notable amount of spirit.
The twins looked remarkably alike thanks to the magic of costume designer Mara Blumenfeld. I had to check my program to verify that the actors were indeed unrelated. Both the costumes and the clean lines of the set worked successfully to make the play relevant to modern times.
I enjoyed discussing the play afterward with my friend by the warmth of the amazing fireplace at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center (the chimney of which is embellished by hand-carved limestone to imitate the textures of wood and water climbs dramatically to the cathedral ceiling high above).
Meanwhile, Milwaukee Shakespeare gave its audience a chance to process the play at the talkback in the theater. The group offers pre-performance discussions, talkbacks, book club talks and other opportunities in addition to information on their Web site to help the audience members understand and appreciate Shakespeare for maximum enjoyment.
Sunlight played on ice sculptures outside the beautiful, etched-glass windows of the center as we talked. It was nice to be out of the city with and able to enjoy white fields and bare branches. I might just have to venture back out that way again, perhaps to take in one of their many art class offerings, photography or “Humor in Abstraction?"
Jessica Laub was born in Milwaukee in the spring of 1970, thereafter spending her childhood days enjoying the summers on the shores of Lake Michigan and winters at the toboggan chute in Brown Deer Park.
Alas, she moved away to broaden her horizons, and studied out East for a few years at Syracuse University. After a semester "abroad" at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, she graduated with a B.A. in English and advertising.
After college, she worked at Glacier National Park, a ski hill in Steamboat, Col. and organic farms in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and California.
In 1995, Laub moved to Nicaragua where she worked on community gardens, reforestation and environmental education as a Peace Corps volunteer. While there, she learned to speak Spanish, pay attention to world politics and how to make tortillas.
Laub then returned to Milwaukee to join the ranks of the non-profit sector. Currently, she works at the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF) and keeps busy by painting, throwing pots, reading, trying to understand her two-year old son, seeing performances and howling at the moon.