A romantic comedy of errors

One of Shakespeare's greatest comedies about love, madness and mistaken identity is coming to the Laguna Beach High Artists Theatre for the first time in over a decade.

"Twelfth Night," the story of shipwrecked twins who each think the other has died and are washed ashore to start anew in the town of Illyria, is full of plot twists, romantic triangles and humorous anachronisms.

"With an 'Arabian Nights' design and feel, we want the audience to be transported to another time and place, but see characters deal with common situations we recognize today," said co-director Amanda Saunders of the colorful adaptation she created with head drama teacher, Mark Dressler.

To survive in a strange town, Viola cross-dresses in her "deceased" brother's clothes and enters the service of Duke Orsino under the same Cesario, where it becomes her duty to deliver messages of the Duke's love to the countess, Olivia.

Having resigned herself to seven years of mourning after the loss of her father and brother, Olivia spurns affections from all, including Orsino, until she falls in love with Cesario's character, who is really Viola disguised as a man.

The plot thickens as Olivia's self-righteous and bigoted steward, Malvolio, becomes the victim of a practical joke that leads him to believe his lady loves him, and Viola's twin brother, Sebastian — who is actually alive and is often mistaken for Cesario — enters the scene.

Find out how these main characters untangle the web of confusion amid the chaos and antics from fellow characters like the drunken Sir Toby and his naïve sidekick, Sir Andrew, Lady Maria and the court jesters.

The show premieres at 7:30 tonight at the Artists' Theatre, 625 Park Ave., and will show again at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 13, 19 and 20. A 2:30 p.m. matinee will also show on Sundays.

"This play appeals to everyone because it reflects human nature — from falling in love with someone who doesn't love us back to enjoying the revenge (and folly) of the town hypocrite," Dressler said. "We've added a lot of Turkish music, dancing and modern-day references, so even those who don't care for Shakespeare will be thoroughly entertained."

Senior Sawyer Pierce, who carries an air of Johnny Depp's character in "Pirates of the Caribbean" with his slurred speech and witty sense, said getting into character was a fun challenge for him.

"My character is always intoxicated, but I still have to find a way to articulate my words and get my point across to the audience," he said. "That's been kind of hard, but it [makes for] good entertainment.

"Kids and adults of all ages will find [elements] of this show to enjoy."

Mastering Olivia's character in the "dramedy," played by junior Macarena Rivera, was also a challenging experience artistically, she said.

"My character is conflicted between sophistication, vulnerability and how she really feels," she said. "The play is so serious, yet so funny. There are so many elements of surprise to Shakespeare's work."

Sarah Busic, a junior who plays Viola, agrees the element of surprise is what will captivate the audience.

"The confusion is fun if you can wrap your head around it," she said. "And the dancing — which most people who are familiar with Shakespeare won't expect — brings a whole new and exciting dimension that people will love."

Tickets are $10 to $20, depending on seating. For more information, call (949) 497-7769.

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