The reinvention of Twelfth Night by production company Shotgun Players has several interesting elements. The modern adaptation of the Shakespearean classic is ebullient with innovation and experimentation. The uniqueness of the play is in showcasing how Shakespeare could be transformed into a musical feature.
Director John Tracy presents a unique interpretation of the Shakespearean classic without sacrificing its essence. The numerous musical interludes and the over-the-top slapstick comedy are deliberate ploys on the part of the director. The purpose for these additions is to augment the entertainment value of the play. Given that Twelfth Night is an out-and-out comedy, these improvisations enhance, rather than detract from, the effectiveness of the play. The only thematic element in the sets used is that of a sea-side. All the props and costumes reflect a sunny coastal town without revealing any specifics. The free-floating placement of musical instruments serves as physical symbols of the musical genre.
One of the admirable features of the play is how each player displays his/her versatility. The role of an actor is not merely confined to the character primarily assigned to him/her. Those not required in an act, seamlessly join in with the chorus or the musical band. Just as swiftly, they switch back to their primary roles as the plot unfolds. This technique not only optimizes usage of resources, but also underscores the theatricality or staginess of the event. The audience thus gets exposed to two layers of operation – one that is Twelfth Night proper and the other the maneuverings of director John Tracy. It adds a new dimension to the overall experience of the play.
Given the centrality of music to this interpretation of Twelfth Night, the music director Ben Euphrat shares the brains trust with John Tracy. Not only does Euphrat carry off the role of Duke Orsino with élan, but he later joins the band with guitar and piano. With the multiple roles assigned to each member of the ensemble, the casting process involved careful planning, foresight and selection. The best choice in this regard is that of Rebecca Pingree playing the lead role of Viola. Her classically trained voice is either used to sing some of her lines or to sing contexts and themes in the de-personified mode. It is satisfying to watch such creativity and novelty in the polyphonic musical presentation of Twelfth Night.
The incorporation of song and music into the narrative is the most marked improvisation from the standard version of the play. To accommodate the luxury of music in the fast-paced comedy, Tracy edits out dialogue that is not absolutely necessary. While this achieves optimization of time, character development is lost in the process. So most characters appear to be superficial and seem to act out of whim and lacking scruples. This is a small but necessary compromise on the part of the creative team.