After the curtain call on Saturday night, the woman sitting next to me said to her companion, “That was so cool.” She wasn’t the only one to think so as the walking line back to the (mercifully indoor) parking lot was abuzz with audiences raving about the things they loved in the National Arts Centre’s production of Twelfth Night. In comparison to that, anything else I could tell you is far secondary.
It starts, as in The Tempest, with a stormy night at sea. Viola washes up far from home on the shores of Illyria and, presenting herself as a man called Cesario, scores a sweet gig in the court of Duke Orsino. Orsino has convinced himself that he is deeply in love with the perpetually mourning and refusing to take suitors Countess Olivia and he sends Cesario to be his wingman, with an order not to be refused. In quick fashion, Olivia falls in love with Cesario and makes repeat excuses to see him again. Not knowing, of course, that Cesario is really Viola or knowing that Viola herself has fallen in love with Duke Orsino. Remember, Orsino also thinks Viola a man. Everything and everybody gets even more confused when Viola’s presumed drowned (on that same stormy night) fraternal twin brother Sebastian shows up and is constantly mistaken for Cesario.