A Gatsby-esque Twelfth Night

Imagine a meeting between F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Shakespeare. Hey, I've got an idea, says Will. Let's transport my popular English comedy Twelfth Night to the site of your American tragedy. The decadence of  West Egg ( Long Island) and the class consciousness of its residents are perfect for my characters, who are, most of them, titled, and not above the kind of cruelty latent in Tom Buchanan. And it's all about mistaken identity, too, or at least people pretending to be someone they are not.

In this summer of The Great Gatsby, I found it odd that the director of Bard on the Beach's Twelfth Night, Dennis Garnhum, apparently should ignore the popularity of the movie and the revival of Fitzgerald's 1925 novel, and instead invite the audience to imagine that it was 1913 and Viola had been shipwrecked at a European Spa, called Illyria. All those men in light coloured suits, the drinking, carousing. Are they trying to say something about Gatsby I wondered, shortly into Act 1. Is Feste the Nick Carraway-type character? But wait, weren't the women's dresses wrong for the jazz age, and, and...

I know that theatre folk are always looking for new ways of presenting Shakespeare, but here the choice seemed less than well thought out. With setting and costumes so obviously referential, the production would have been served by making better plot or thematic use of the implications. It might be done without altering the script. On the other hand, why not a different setting altogether? Still, it was a very enjoyable production with a wonderful performance, as usual, by the multi-talented Jonathan Young as Feste, the wise fool, and also by the newcomer Rachel Cairns, who played a convincing Viola. I loved the scene just before intermission, when each principal character crosses the stage by him or herself, pausing for barely a beat, before striding down one of the tunnels to offstage. We knew what each was thinking, though no one said a word. Of course on the main stage, the backdrop open to a sea/mountain view of Vancouver is always the star of the show.