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CTC Takes on Shakespeare's Gender Bending Comedy Twelfth Night

Ladies dressed as men, girls falling for girls, fools drinking themselves stupid and epic love triangles, Twelfth Night utilizes all of Shakespeare's classic tropes for cheap laughs.

The Mrs. Doubtfire of Shakespearean comedies, the play begins with a shipwreck, after which the fair Viola, played by Mary Hildebrandt, decides to disguise herself as a man before testing her luck in the new land. Makes sense, right?

Add the drunken bumbling of Sir Toby Belch, played with a thick Irish accent by Andrew Hickman, the sweet songs and quick wit of Feste the Jester, courtesy of Kathryn Foreman, and the rest of the cast hammering the play's signature filthy jokes, and Cascade Theatrical Company is rolling out a laugh a minute in Early Modern English.

Widely recognized as one of Shakespeare's funniest works, CTC chose Twelfth Night for just that reason.

"We try to do a little bit of classical theater at least once a season," said Will Futterman, who plays Duke Orsino in the production. "When people think about Shakespeare, they think it's very academic, but this play really is very funny, and we wanted to showcase that aspect of Shakespeare's writing."

Directed by Liam O'Sruitheain, the production will run for three weeks starting in late January. A professionally trained Shakespearean actor and longime player in Bend community theater, O'Sruitheain worked with Innovation Theatre Works on several productions before its closure in late 2012. He is now hard at work with CTC bringing a linguistically loyal version of Twelfth Night to the community theater.

O'Sruitheain said that the verbage shouldn't be intimidating to your average playgoer.

"There are obviously certain archaic words that modern audiences aren't familiar with," said O'Sruitheain. "But the physical action of the play is self-explanatory."

The play was written in the early 1600s, a time of political chaos in Europe. O'Sruitheain sets his production in the late Victorian period, just before the first World War.

"Both in Shakespeare's time and the time in which I'm setting it, there's a feeling that things are changing," explained O'Sruitheain. "There is a sense of uncertainty."

The funniest moments of Twelfth Night are rooted in this uncertainty. The device of dressing women as men and the confusion that ensues is timeless. Brother and sister Viola and Sebastian get the biggest laughs with gender reversals and mistaken marriage proposals.

"I was fortunate in terms of the people who auditioned-I got a real brother and sister for the role of Sebastian and Viola," said O'Sruitheain referring to Brian and Mary Hildebrant. "They are not exactly the same size, but the theatrical illusion being what it is, I think we can pass."

Loyal CTC fans can expect to see some familiar faces including the female Hildebrant, who played Prosecutor and sang in the chorus of 2012's It's Only Money, and Futterman who acted in Wrong Window and Lend me a Tenor. In fact, 16 of the cast members are returning CTC actors.

"It's nice when I see faces over and over again who come up after shows," said Futterman. "The audience becomes friends of yours when you're in this small of a community."

Twelfth Night

Preview Night

7:30 pm., Jan. 24,

$10, tickets at the door only

Jan. 25 to Feb. 10

7:30 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday nights

2 p.m. Sundays

$24 Adult, $18 Seniors (60 and over), $12 Students

Cascades Theatrical Company, Greenwood Playhouse

148 NW Greenwood Ave.

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