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Love and its disguises take center stage in ‘Twelfth Night’

Set in jazz era of the ’30s, Shakespeare’s comedy will be performed Feb. 16 to 25

EVANSTON - In a new twist on a Shakespeare classic, shipwrecked siblings washed up on an island get caught up in the artifice and excess of the gilded age in Wirtz Center’s Mainstage production of “Twelfth Night.”

The comedy of mistaken identity and misplaced love, “Twelfth Night, or What You Will,” runs Feb. 16 to 25 in the Ethel M. Barber Theater, 30 Arts Circle Drive on Northwestern University’s Evanston campus.

MFA directing candidate Jeffrey Mosser sets the production in the sultry swing jazz era of the 1930s, finding inspiration in clowning greats of the silent film era such as Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy.

The plot follows twins Sebastian and Viola who are separated after a shipwreck in the land of Illyria. Viola assumes a new life in disguise as “Cesario” and enters the service of the Duke who longs for the love of the neighboring Countess. However, the Countess finds Cesario more to her liking. Deception, disguise and the madness of love take center stage in one of the Bard’s greatest romantic comedies.

The production plays with the idea of facades, those we create to please others and those we use to hide our identity.  Incorporating postmodern jazz music and blending Shakespeare’s words with the words and real life experiences of the cast, the production frequently veers outside of the theatrical fourth wall.

“The ‘Twelfth Night’ characters dress, eat and love to excess which started me wondering when was there a time of great excess in history. The Great Gatsby period of the 1930s put gold trim on everything, but there was also a great gap between the haves and have nots. The island setting lets us explore façade and excess,” Mosser said.

“The play reminds me its only once we let go of our façade that we can be truly loved for who we are.”

Performances of “Twelfth Night” are Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. and are part of the Wirtz Center’s 2017/2018 mainstage season.

Single tickets are $25 for the general public; $22 for seniors (62+) and area educators; $20 for Northwestern emeritus, faculty and staff; $10 for students with valid ID; and $6 in advance or $10 at the door for Northwestern students. 

Tickets are available online at the Wirtz Center website, by phone at 847-491-7282 or in person at the Wirtz Center box office in the Barber Theater lobby, 30 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston.    

Box office hours are Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. The Box Office is closed Sundays and Mondays. 

Related Events:

Chicago Theatre Week
Feb. 8 to 18
Various locations

Performances of “Twelfth Night” from Feb. 16 to 18 are included in the sixth annual Chicago Theatre Week, which celebrates the rich tradition of theater-going in Chicago with value-priced tickets for more than 120 shows. “Twelfth Night” tickets are $15 each with code CTW2018.

Chicago Theatre Week is presented by the League of Chicago Theatres with support from Choose Chicago. More information is available on the Chicago Theatre Week website

The Wirtz Center is a member of the Northwestern Arts Circle, which brings together film, humanities, literary arts, music, theater, dance and visual arts. 

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