From the deep archives: TWELFTH NIGHT at Lincoln Center Theater in 1998

December 2, 2013

twelfth night lct playbill
Seeing Mark Rylance and Company’s take on Twelfth Night, currently on Broadway, conjured fond remembrance of Nicholas Hytner’s 1998 production at Lincoln Center Theater. Many snoots were cocked at Hytner’s casting the play with young movie stars not schooled in Shakespearean performance. But Hytner’s reading of the play struck me as deep and thoughtful, and Bob Crowley produced one of his most spectacular sets for the occasion. (The production was broadcast  on “Live from Lincoln Center” and you can see clips from it on YouTube starting here.)

My review begins:

Director Nicholas Hytner has said in interviews that his production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at Lincoln Center Theater in New York continues the theme of unrequited love he explored in his film The Object of My Affection. What he was shyer about saying was that the production also investigates the same slipperiness of sexual identity that figured heavily in the film about a gay man’s affair with his female roommate. In any case, Hytner has mounted a physically ravishing production (with a show-stealing set by scenic genius Bob Crowley) that makes the case for Twelfth Night as Shakespeare’s most direct examination of homo love.

            The production, which runs through August 30, features Hytner’s Affection-ate leading man, Paul Rudd, who is practically unrecognizable here. Bearded, hairy-chested and with a scraggly rock-star mane, Rudd’s Duke Orsino is costumed by Catherine Zuber to resemble Prince in his New Power Generation period — all purple pajamas and brocade uniforms. As the audience enters, he and several serving boys are sprawled around an onstage pond passing a pipe and being serenaded by court musicians. He rouses himself to rhapsodize about Olivia (Kyra Sedgwick), the countess who spurns his advances while mourning her perhaps over-beloved brother. It becomes pretty clear, however, that this Orsino’s vision of women is a romantic spasm of compulsory heterosexuality. He seems quite content hanging with the homeboys. And when Viola (Helen Hunt) washes ashore from a shipwreck and disguises herself in trousers with just the right amount of gold piping to infiltrate his household as “Cesario,” she/he immediately becomes the Duke’s favorite, hand-picked to strip him down to his Princely purple trunks for a morning dip.

You can read the full review online here. Check it out and let me know what you think.

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