Play on: “Twelfth Night”

Play on: “Twelfth Night”

From left, Xavier Powers, Christopher Brophy, and Billy Meleady perform "Othello" in October 2009. — Photo courtesy of Nicole Galland

For every season there is a play, and right after New Year’s, it’s time for “Twelfth Night.” Cue Shakespeare for the Masses: Quick and Painless and Free, the irreverent, witty, script-in-hand performance troupe. MJ Bruder Munafo, artistic director of The Vineyard Playhouse, is pleased to announce that the troupe will perform their 65-minute version of “Twelfth Night” on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 15 and 16, at 7 pm at the Playhouse in Vineyard Haven.

“Twelfth Night” (as in “On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…”) is actually the fifth of January, and in Shakespeare’s England, it was a time of wild mischief, making a celebration of the Lord of Misrule, where the order of things was turned on its head, creating a sort of anything goes mentality. Shakespeare wrote the play “Twelfth Night” to celebrate that spirit. Gender, social mores, even the English language itself – everything goes topsy-turvy in this outrageous romantic comedy, featuring what remains the most original romantic triangle in the history of storytelling.

Shakespeare for the Masses is the brainchild of Chelsea McCarthy and Nicole Galland, who back in October 2008 prepared and staged a well-received “annotated” abridgement of “Hamlet.” Since then, they and the talented troupe they work with have given the Vineyard a dozen different Shakespeare plays, always with just a day or two of rehearsal. All the performances are short, accessible abridgements of the scripts, and all feature highly opinionated narrators, who break open the story for a modern audience. To their delight and surprise, they’ve developed a bit of a cult following and with each show, they try to push the envelope a little further.

“Twelfth Night” features veteran Playhouse actors Brooke Ditchfield as Viola, Molly Purves as Olivia, and Christopher Brophy as the much-put-upon Malvolio; the rest of the cast includes Brian Ditchfield, Chelsea McCarthy, Jill Macy, Anna Yukevich, Katharine Reid, Xavier Powers, Jamie Alley, Paul Munafo, Rob Myers, and Nicole Galland.

Shakespeare for the Masses was partially funded in 2009 by a grant from the Martha’s Vineyard Cultural Council. The theater is currently seeking funding for 2010. Contact Geneva Monks at Geneva@vineyardplayhouse.org if you are interested in becoming a sponsor.

Shakespeare for the Masses: “Twelfth Night” 7 pm, Friday and Saturday, Jan. 15 and 16. Vineyard Playhouse, Vineyard Haven. Staged reading. Free; donations accepted. vineyardplayhouse.org; 508-693-6450.

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