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Writer and social critic Alice Dunbar Nelson was born in 1875 and helped shaped the Harlem Renaissance.

Twelfth Night

POSTED: July 02, 2009, 11:01 pm

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This summer, June 10 through July 12, Shakespeare in the Park brings us Twelfth Night, by William Shakespeare, Directed by Daniel Sullivan, and starring Oscar-nominated Anne Hathaway as Viola.

Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare’s favored comedies, which centers on mistaken identity. Viola is shipwrecked on Illyria. She loses contact with her twin brother, Sebastian. Masquerading as the young page Cesario, she enters the service of Duke Orsino. Orsino is in love with Lady Olivia, whose father and brother have recently died. Orsino decides to use Cesario as an intermediary, to declare his love to Lady Olivia. Olivia, believing Viola/Cesario to be a man, falls in love with the eloquent messenger. Viola, in turn, falls in love with the Duke, who also believes Viola is a man, and his confidant. It all ends with a wedding. As always, with Shakespeare, there is lots of love declaring, gender bending, comic relief, and subplots.

The production opened with an impressive cast, which includes Charles Borland, Michael Cumpsty, Raúl Esparza, Herb Foster, Anne Hathaway, Hamish Linklater, Audra McDonald, David Pittu, Jay O. Sanders, and Jon Patrick Walker. That’s enough reason to line up, early morning for free tickets at Central Park’s Delacorte Theatre.

Here are excerpts from Charles Isherwood’s review for The New York Times  “Most wonderful”… an apt reaction to the scintillating new production of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy that … at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. “Twelfth Night” is a perennial favorite, and with its multifaceted plot mixing sweetness, sadness and silliness it is also about as surefire as Shakespeare plays get…this polished staging, expertly directed by Daniel Sullivan, is the most consistently pleasurable the city has seen in at least a decade. And it is certainly one of the most accomplished Shakespeare in the Park productions the Public Theater has fielded in some time.

The Viola of the gamine movie actress Anne Hathaway is the marquee attraction that will surely make this production the summer’s buzziest theater ticket. But among the many pleasures of her performances is its effortless modesty. On screen or onstage Ms. Hathaway possesses the unmistakable glow of a natural star, but she dives smoothly and with obvious pleasure into the embrace of a cohesive ensemble cast.

…The turbulent feelings erupting so suddenly in Olivia’s heart are rendered with a lovely glow in Ms. McDonald’s affecting performance. She is among the most accomplished musical theater performers of her generation (and gets to sing a little here, fans will be happy to know), but her musicianship doesn’t stop at the level of the verse.

…Mr. Esparza too is a fine musician who is given a chance to display his vocal prowess in song. But the roguish appeal of his performance derives primarily from his glum humor. ..Mr. Esparza’s exasperated glower and wry line readings give the character an appealing, underdog humanity. Exiting the stage in a bitter mood, he is upbraided by a burst of upbeat music. Ostensibly reaching for the hand of his crossed-dressed Viola at the play’s climax, he stops short in mortification at the discovery that he is looking into the eyes of her brother, Sebastian (well played by the excellent young actor Stark Sands, supported by the equally fine Antonio of Charles Borland).

Music, as you may have gathered, is far from incidental to the production. The handsome score is written and performed by the “symphonic folk-rock” band Hem. In addition to the songs — most expertly led by the gifted comic actor David Pittu as a sour ragamuffin Feste —

There is much more about this wonderful production…Read on!

Please free to comment on Twelfth Night or make any inquiries to Sandra Daley at

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