Revelry, masquerades, charades, trickery, servants and masters trading places and chaotic partying characterized the Christmas-related holiday known as “Twelfth Night,” a custom we have long forgotten since Christmas became the terra firma of merchants (think “Twelve Days of Christmas,” though they start on Christmas Day and go to January 6, or Epiphany, the eve of which is Twelfth Night, and the Christmas season ending on February 2, or Candlemas). In Elizabethan England, however, the pre-Christmas weeks of Advent were penitential and somber, and the merriment began on Christmas and lasted much later, making Twelfth Night something akin to New Year’s Eve, April Fool’s Day and Halloween combined. Kudos to City Lit Theater for choosing to present their first-ever Shakespeare production in the company’s twenty-eight-year history actually aligned to the calendar compass point of January that the Bard’s most farcical comedy takes place and during which it was traditionally presented, itself becoming a much needed and welcome merry, midwinter diversion. Director Jay Paul Skelton, artistic director of the Shakespeare Festival at the University of Notre Dame, makes sure that the lines and the gags are played for laughs when needed, yet tempered with tenderness when necesssary, and the work becomes a glorious showcase for the mostly young cast. Particularly effective was the decision to incorporate the often omitted or usually unrecognizably transformed Thomas Morley songs, performed on ukulele, of all things, with “O Mistress Mine” as a servant sing-along. In their case, though, music could well be the love of food, rather than the food of love. (Dennis Polkow)
At City Lit Theater, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr, (773)293-3682. This production is now closed.