OREM — In front of the iconic Grassroots Shakespeare Company’s bright yellow-curtained set, the cast of Twelfth Night put on a comedic performance of the classic Elizabethan era play. The leading lady Viola loses her brother in a shipwreck, and finds herself in the kingdom of the Duke Orsino — where she must disguise herself as a man to get closer to the man she serves (and loves). The only problem is that Duke loves Olivia, and Olivia falls in love with the Viola’s faked masculinity. From there, the hilarity begins.

Show closes January 25, 2020.

Just as Shakespeare‘s company likely did centuries ago, these actors and actresses co-directed this play and designed their own costumes. Because they were on an actual stage and not confined to a limited outdoor space, every aspect of the stage was utilized, and included an area for Gary Argyle to accompany the production on the guitar and Addison Radle to add perfectly timed sound effects. I was impressed by the cast and musicians’ abilities to play off one another with their witty jokes as well as their clear dictation of lines from their script. If you ever want to actually understand Shakespeare, Grassroots is the perfect way to start.

One costume to highlight was that found on Malvolio, played by Steven Pond. Although his acting was great, my favorite part of his character were the yellow stockings. To woo his lady, Pond attempted to seduce Olivia with his looks and clothing in brightly colored tights and a yellow cloth gird about his loins. Pond’s character was well-thought out and played into the story brilliantly. The addition of these yellow tights was the number one comedic detail of the production.

Viola was portrayed by actress Maren Lethbridge, whose sassy personality shone through the entire play. Lethbridge did a great job of portraying the emotions that would have accompanied such a twisted love triangle as is seen in this story. She felt real and relateable, though I hope never to find myself in that situation! As Viola realized the complications of Olivia falling in love with her, her thoughts spoken out loud added to the complexity of the situation. Lethbridge delivered this dialogue in a manner that was understandable to the modern audience.

Jasmine Dawn Fullmer played Olivia, the highly sought after young female in the Duke’s kingdom. Fullmer’s body language was particular to slapstick comedy and exaggerated emotions. Fullmer was able to overplay the drama, such as when she meets Sebastion (who looks like Viola when she is disguised as Cesario). Olivia proposes marriage and immediately reenters the scene ready with a wedding veil and a priest. Fullmer was definitely the source of much of my laughter.

Sir Andrew was my favorite dumb-witted character, and was portrayed by Drake Hansen. Hansen has an impressive ability to simultaneously articulate his Shakespearean sonnet and add gestures, such as shaking his backside, to add both understanding and hilarity to his role. Hansen made sure that he hit execute joke with perfect comedic timing and inflection, even when explaining his thoughts on how eating beef affects his character’s mentality. I appreciated Hansen’s knack for appearing oblivious, yet showing his true thespian talent.

Even though the Grassroots Shakespeare Company only rehearsed for a total of 40 hours, the small cast connected well with one another and made Shakespeare fun. It was easy to understand and humorous, but its solitary goal was not to coax a reaction from the audience. Instead, the company aimed to show respect for Shakespeare and put on yet another performance worth your time, attention, and appreciation.

The Grassroots Shakespeare Company production of Twelfth Night plays nightly at 7:30 PM through January 18 at the SCERA Center for the Arts (745 South State Street, Orem) and January 24 and 25 at 7:30 PM at the Salt Lake Masonic Temple (650 East South Temple, Salt Lake City). Tickets are $10-12. For more information visit www.grassrootsshakespeare.com.

This review was supported by a generous grant from the Orem CARE program.