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Twelfth Night - Herndon High School - Herndon, Virginia - November 11, 2017

Karen Zipor

Stone Bridge High School


"If music be the food of love, play on," is undoubtedly the most famous line from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. But before Duke Orsino gets a chance to express his lovesickness, the audience was immediately introduced to the 1920's era of the show. The Duke's speakeasy consisted of a brightly lit bar, an ensemble of dancing flapper girls, and upbeat jazz music. A tight-knit cast of hilarious actors filled the stage of Herndon High School's production of Twelfth Night.


Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (also known as What You Will) is a comedy written around 1601-1602. It was originally performed as entertainment to celebrate closing off the Christmas season on the Twelfth Night (hence the title of the show). Although the play was written over 400 years ago, the comedy still holds true, and it is a wildly popular play among high schools and Shakespearean troupes all over the world.


The main plot follows the shipwrecked Viola (Erin Maxwell) who lands on the island of Illyria and believes that her twin brother, Sebastian (Henry Metcalf), drowned at sea. Viola decides to disguise herself as a boy so she can work for Duke Orsino (Sean Sullivan). Maxwell surpassed the challenges of her role, as she fluctuated between the feminine Viola and her masculine identity of "Cesario" effortlessly. She was constantly enamored by Orsino, and her reunion with her lost brother at the end was the most poignant moment of the play.


The ensemble of comedic characters shined in this show and commanded the audience's attention. The Fool, also known as Feste the Jester (Rose Bailey), was a crowd favorite. She had many songs throughout the show: belting out Shakespearean rhymes with her trusty kazoo. In addition, the drunken duo of Sir Toby Belch (Cristian Bonilla Lainez) and Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Trace Hollenbeck) played off each other like a tuned clock. They both would party the night away, play pranks, and duel Viola with extravagant intoxicated enthusiasm.


The most surprisingly endearing character was Malvolio (Shivam Shrivastava). He began the show as the snarky and composed servant to Olivia (Elise Fleming). However, Malvolio gets pranked on and led to believe that Olivia is secretly in love with him. Shrivastava was entirely committed to his role as the love-struck Malvolio.  Willing to do anything to please Olivia, Shrivastava's character completely changed: spectacularly sporting yellow stockings and flirtatious smiles.


All of the makeup, costumes, and props were colorful and consistent with the period of America during the 1920's. The set consisted of painted periactoids and a rotating platform that could be Orsino's speakeasy or Olivia's shrine to her deceased brother. Concerning tech backstage, the running crew didn't seem to have a sense of urgency during scene changes, but the mics were flawless throughout the show.


Overall, Herndon High School put together a performance that was utterly delightful to watch. The close bond among the cast members translated onstage with their impeccable comedic timing and genuine connections. With their in-depth understanding of Shakespeare, Herndon High School certainly knows that it's better to be a witty fool than a foolish wit.

Joan Flaherty

Stone Bridge High School


Sit back, relax, and prepare to giggle at the original rom-com, filled with all your favorite cliches-- love triangles, pranks, cross dressing, alcoholic family members, and cross gartered yellow stockings. Okay, so maybe Herndon High School's Twelfth Night isn't your typical "girl gets a makeover for a guy" type show (unless you count a ship wrecked Viola dressing as a man to serve Duke Orsino.)


Shakespeare did, in fact, write more than just the story about two star-crossed lovers that you were forced to read in ninth grade English. With the bard's debut of Twelfth Night, he ushered a fresh sub-genre of shows that incorporate aspect of both comedy and romance. Since it's 1601 release, the play (alternatively titled What You Will) has been an international hit. In addition, the plot has inspired a myriad of pop culture sensations including She's the Man and Just One of the Guys.


For every love story an "it" guy is needed-- in this case Orsino. Played by Sean Sullivan, his melancholy and wealth were not enough to win the heart of Countess Olivia (Elise Fleming,) but did attract a young lady in an unfortunate situation, Viola (Erin Maxwell.) From the moment the protagonist was rescued from the sea, Maxwell showed proper urgency and understanding of her character. When Viola turned Cesario, the audience laughed at the actress's man-spreading and emphasis of her masculine irony.


Viola and Duke Orsino are not the only noteable couple on the Herndon stage; a bromance between Sir Toby (Cristian Bonilla Lainez) and Sir Andrew (Trace Hollenback) captured the heart and busted the gut of the audience. The duo's chemistry equated to perfect comedic timing and the creation of many memorable scenes. Joining them, Feste (Rose Bailey) and Malvolio (Shivam Shirvastava) both brought clear line delivery and a unique, humorous aura to the theater.


While overlooked characters in the text, the minor roles stood out. From the sailors who rescue Viola and peek behind her sheet while she changes to the Priest (Shannon Fowler) who with bald cap and jolly grin marries the couples, there were no small parts. Despite brilliant performances from the cast, they did struggle with delivery of the Shakespearean lines, falling into rhythmic speaking and speeding through them.


The tech utilized was just as clever as the actors it highlighted. Periaktoi, triangular prisms on wheels, comprised the set-- acting as puzzle pieces to construct the setting. With such an intricately designed set, transitions were lengthy, but it was still fascinating, nonetheless, to watch the running crew compose the next scene. Music played in between scenic switches as well, one of the elements-- along with aerial mics-- that the sound crew flawlessly executed.


So, why sit on your couch and watch 10 Things I Hate About You for the a thousandth time? Cross garter your favorite pair of yellow stockings and head towards Herndon High School where you can see what's all the hype with this Shakespeare guy.


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