The cast of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, opening this week at The Merc Playhouse in Twisp: Back row from left, Kate Wisniewski, Don Nelson, Josh Holguin, Chris Behrens, Robert Nelson, Bob Hoffman, Doran Doran. Middle row, from left, Amelia Garcia-Cosgrove, Kylie Spillman, Matt Weingarten. Front row from left, Mandi Smith, Amelia Eberline, David Gottula. Hoffman, who was injured in a recent accident, has since been replaced by Rob Brooks. Photo by Miss Kitty’s Place

The cast of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, opening this week at The Merc Playhouse in Twisp: Back row from left, Kate Wisniewski, Don Nelson, Josh Holguin, Chris Behrens, Robert Nelson, Bob Hoffman, Doran Doran. Middle row, from left, Amelia Garcia-Cosgrove, Kylie Spillman, Matt Weingarten. Front row from left, Mandi Smith, Amelia Eberline, David Gottula. Hoffman, who was injured in a recent accident, has since been replaced by Rob Brooks. Photo by Miss Kitty’s Place

By Laurelle Walsh

The Merc Playhouse production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, directed by Ki Gottberg, opens on Friday (Aug. 1) after a week’s postponement.

The show will run for two weeks: Friday and Saturday, Aug. 1 – 2 at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Aug. 3 at 2 p.m.; Thursday – Saturday, Aug. 7 – 9 at 7:30 p.m.; with a closing performance on Sunday, Aug. 10 at 2 p.m. Doors open one-half hour before show time.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $5 for youth 18 and under, with a “pay-what-you-can” performance on Thursday, Aug. 7.

Tickets pre-purchased for the original opening weekend may be used at any of the seven performances.

Gottberg has set the play, penned by Shakespeare in the early 17th century, on a ranch in the wild West. “Shakespeare wrote for settings in imaginary worlds that he mixed with totally recognizable places of London,” Gottberg said. “Since we are doing the play in cowboy country, it makes sense to set it where it is even more accessible.”

Shakespeare’s comedies were the soap operas of his day, Gottberg said. “Everyone from the most uneducated to royalty enjoyed his plays — and still do.”

 “The story is totally fun and accessible for a contemporary audience,” Gottberg added. “Any well-rehearsed Shakespeare will be perfectly understandable because of the actions of the actors. Elizabethan English is not a problem but part of the fun.”

Twelfth Night is a romantic comedy complete with a love triangle, people in disguise, mistaken identity, and the pain of unrequited love.

The story is about a lovesick, wealthy young ranch owner, Orsino, who is attempting to woo another wealthy young ranch woman, Olivia, in the country of Illyria. Olivia’s brother has recently died, and she decides she will mourn him and not venture into the world for seven years, since her heart is so broken. 

Meanwhile, during a shipwreck, twin brother and sister Sebastian and Viola are separated and washed ashore in Illyria, each believing the other has died in the wreck. Viola disguises herself as a man, so that she can survive unharmed in this new world, and becomes Orsino’s valet.

Viola falls in love with Orsino, but of course can’t reveal that she is a woman. She, as a man, is sent as a messenger to Olivia, and Olivia, finding this young “man” Cesario so darling, promptly falls for him.

The love triangle is complete: Viola loves Orsino; Orsino loves Olivia; and Olivia loves Cesario — and everyone is miserable.

Meanwhile Sebastian, the twin of Viola, has joined forces with a pirate and is wandering the area, further confusing the situation as he is mistaken for Cesario.

Gottberg’s cast includes a mix of local Methow Valley thespians, along with professionals and students who hail from the Seattle area.

The Merc Playhouse is at 101 South Glover St. in Twisp. Call 997-7529 or go to www.mercplayhouse.org for more information.