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Review – ‘Illyria’ at 6th Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa By Alexa Chipman

William Shakespeare’s festive comedy ‘Twelfth Night’ has been revised with contemporary language and exuberant songs by

Centered around the twins Viola and Sebastian, who are separated by a storm at sea and wash ashore in Illyria, each believe the other sibling has perished. Viola takes on her brother’s persona, and becomes employed with Duke Orsino, who is desperately in love with Countess Olivia, who spurns his advances. Viola becomes his intermediary, and while bringing messages of devotion, she finds herself falling for the duke herself. Meanwhile, Sebastian arrives, and the two are continually mistaken for each other, leading to mayhem and hilarity.

Carmen Mitchell’s Viola has a dependably exceptional voice and poise in her performance. She conveys a deep affection for the duke, while able to clearly see his faults and courageously point them out in “We Men.” Direction by Craig A. Miller during her early scenes with Olivia (Tracy Hinman) creates a playful bond between the women, which pays off throughout the play. Sebastian (Lorenzo Alviso) has a genuine innocence, similar to his sister, expressed in “The Lady Must Be Mad” while he rambles in happy acceptance of the mysterious circumstances he finds himself drawn into.

Music director Lucas Sherman conducts a small orchestra with passionate violin by Felicia McFall that veers into loving caricature when the melodramatic Duke Orsino (Burton Thomas) appears. Like his counterpart in Shakespeare, he is connected with music, and occasionally gives direction to Sherman from the stage with pompous commands.

The boisterous carousing of Sir Toby (Seth Dahlgren) and his associates breaks up romantic tension with diverting escapades. Amanda Morando’s high-spirited choreography of “Cakes and Ale” has the ensemble kicking their heels and whirling around tables, clanking tankards of beer with cheerful enthusiasm. Gillian Eichenberger is superb as Maria, with flirtatious quirky smiles, mischievous acumen and careful maneuvering of Sir Toby. The object of their derision, Malvolio (Larry Williams), gathers sympathy from the audience with his absurd antics as the confused, self-absorbed steward.

Acting in place of a narrator, Feste (Tim Setzer) navigates through the complicated plot with a variety of appearances. He is aware that it is a story, making passing references that bemuse and astound the characters, who are entirely unaware that they are fictional.

April George’s lighting design of sunsets and mesmerizing water ripples is enhanced by distant surf and seaside sound design by Miller for a tactile sense of location. Jesse Dreikosen’s scenic design evokes a coastal resort’s carefully tended garden, with blossoming trees and a stone bridge spilling onto the stage. Classic pastoral costumes by Marcy Bethel Frank continue the attention to detail, with sailor cut jackets and trousers.

‘Illyria’ is a picturesque romance with a pinch of saucy wit and a sensational ensemble at 6th Street Playhouse. The musical has upgraded the original story, bringing it comfortably into the 21st century, with flair and heart.

Illyria Presented by 6th Street Playhouse through July 8, 2018 Fri/Sat at 7:30pm, Sat/Sun at 2:00pm

G.K. Hardt Theatre at 6th Street Playhouse 52 W. 6th Street, Santa Rosa, CA 95401 (707) 523-4185

Photos by Eric Chazankin

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