The Origin of Greatness: Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night Come to Broadway

Twelfth Night

Two-time Tony winner Mark Rylance, who plays the role of Olivia. (Photo courtesy of Broadway.com)

by Stephanie Weaver

For a limited 16 week engagement, Mark Rylance, Samuel Barnett, Stephen Fry, and an all-male company are performing William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and Richard III at the Belasco Theatre on 44th Street in Manhattan.

The company follows the tradition method of Shakespearean performance and engages the audience, breaking the fourth wall, at multiple points during the five act production.

The theatre was constructed as a traditional Ibsen theatre, from an architectural standpoint; on Oct. 25, however, the theatre was transformed into a theatre in the round.

Audience members sat on the stage with their faces illuminated by the candlelight of six chandeliers, as a myriad of Shakespearean lovers filed into the well-lit theatre, and an incessant hum of whispers filled the theatre as the actors donned their costumes on the stage as the audience waited for the production to begin.

The production of Twelfth Night, or What You Will, began before the first line of the first act was uttered. The company adhered to Shakespearean tradition by conducting all costume preparation on the stage while period music was performed in the background.

About a half hour before the play began, the audience saw the actors execute their methods of preparation. No microphones were used throughout the entire production, maintaining the Shakespearean tradition. The production embodied greatness – the same greatness that Malvolio spoke of in the second act.

With a killer cast, which included Mark Rylance as Olivia, Samuel Barnett as Viola and Stephen Fry as Malvolio, the production elicited laughter and joy for the entire audience.

“It was a fantastic performance, and I now have a greater appreciation of Shakespeare,” said Teresa Nocella.

The play ended with the company dancing on the stage as the fool gently signed a melody of romantic love and the confusion that follows falling in love. Although the play may be considered obsolete, since the Bard penned it over four hundred years ago, its message still held true for the audience members who were waiting for Shakespeare’s iambic words to be uttered by the players of the twenty-first century.