Midsommer Flight's Twelfth Night offers hijinks and insight | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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Midsommer Flight's Twelfth Night offers hijinks and insight

The beautiful Lincoln Park Conservatory setting is just one reason to see this returning production.

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William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night is only nominally a holiday show: the first recorded public performance on February 2, 1602, was on Candlemas, formally ending the "Christmastide" season at that time, and the title refers to the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany, marked by servants dressing as masters and other topsy-turvy hijinks—thus setting the stage for the gender-bending antics in the play. But Midsommer Flight brings back their sweet, funny, and thoughtful production to the lush Lincoln Park Conservatory setting for a fifth seasonal outing.

Dylan S. Roberts's staging is minimal in design (who wants to compete with all the greenery around the audience?) but maximalist in spirit. Yet it's rooted in a clear female-centered perspective, from Jackie Seijo's Viola, whose desires take a surprising (unscripted) turn toward the end, to Bailey Savage's clown Feste (whose knowing ironic manner and zestful singing voice provides useful counterpoints to the confused love matches), to Erika B. Caldwell's priggish servant Malvolio, whose comeuppance gets way out of hand. Her situation leaves us to ponder how we treat women who dare to want more than the world seems to have dished out for them.

But the social agenda, such as it is, never overpowers the spirit of misrule and mischief underpinning the whole affair. Zach Tabor and Jason Goff as the carousing Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek, along with Stephanie Mattos's servant, Maria, bring strong elements of physical comedy. The supporting ensemble of musician/actors, performing songs by Elizabeth Rentfro, Alex Mauney, and Jordan Golding, add delightful transitions to this well-paced 100-minute show, which makes it feel like springtime in December.  v

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