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Twelfth Night In the Rehearsal Room

Synopsis for A Little Shakespeare: Twelfth Night

Lights up on a party at Illyria Beach Club in Southern California—music, dancing, and fun! Then a huge storm blows through, and the ship carrying twins Viola and Sebastian is blown apart in the storm. Each of them washes ashore on Illyria, but in different places. Each believes the other has drowned.

Viola, needing to find some work in this new land, disguises herself as a man and calls herself Cesario. In this disguise, she enters the service of Orsino, a Duke. Orsino is desperately in love with Olivia, and spends much of his time listening to music and pining over her. Olivia, however, is in mourning for her dead brother, and has no time for Orsino.

Orsino sends Viola (dressed as Cesario) with a love message to Olivia’s house where he is met by her servants Malvolio, Maria, and Flora. Olivia, believing Cesario/Viola to be a man (and extremely handsome), falls in love with him/her. She sends her servant Malvolio to give a ring to Cesario/Viola in the hopes that he/she will visit her again. Cesario/Viola spends some time fending off Olivia’s advances. In addition, Cesario/Viola has by this time fallen in love with Orsino, but can’t tell him because she is in disguise.

Where is Sebastian, Viola’s twin, all this time? He is in another part of Illyria with his friend Antonia, a sailor who rescued him. Sebastian wants to explore Illyria, but Antonia is wanted by the police in the city and is afraid of being arrested.

Meanwhile, shenanigans ensue at Olivia’s house. Sir Toby Belch (Olivia’s cousin, and a great eater and drinker), Sir Andrew Aguecheek (a foolish, wealthy young man who is trying, unsuccessfully to woo Olivia), Maria, Feste, Valentine and Fabian (members of the Illyria Beach Club house band) frequently disturb the peace of the lady’s house by partying late into the night. Olivia’s cranky and arrogant steward, Malvolio, is summoned by the band’s bass player, Dorset, who enters and is greatly annoyed by all of this, and swears to tell Olivia of the ruckus they are making.

The servants and household members decide to play a trick on Malvolio. They forge a letter from Olivia, in which she says she is in love with Malvolio and asks him to prove his love in return by wearing yellow stockings and acting in a variety of foolish ways.  Malvolio does all the letter asks, causing Olivia to believe he has lost his mind. She has him locked up in a dark tent on the beach.

And now Sebastian, Viola’s twin, arrives on the scene. When he meets Olivia, he falls in love with her. Olivia, of course, believes Sebastian is Cesario/Viola, and immediately claims him as her love.

In another part of the house, Sir Toby Belch has arranged a duel between Sir Andrew and Cesario/Viola, since he/she is Sir Andrew’s main competitor for Olivia’s love. Antonia, who has been looking for Sebastian, spots the fight and rushes in to rescue Viola/Sebastian, because she thinks it is Sebastian who is in danger. She is arrested and taken away.

Everyone is now very confused!

But then! Sebastian and Viola are finally in the same place at the same time! They are each overjoyed to discover the other is not dead. Viola reveals herself to be a woman. Orsino discovers that he loves her back. Malvolio learns the truth of the trick that’s been played on him, and swears revenge. Orsino entreats Sir Andrew to go make peace with Malvolio, and after handing him a wad of cash, Malvolio forgives all. They celebrate their happy ending with a party—singing, dancing, and celebrating being young and in love in the summertime!