By Diana Saenger
Can the themes of honor, betrayal and romance all compete for the plot in a comedic play?
Yes! When it’s William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” running through Nov. 13 in the Old Globe’s
Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre. The play is directed by Richard Seer, and is a co-production of The Old Globe/University of San Diego Graduate Theatre Program.
Seer, an award-winning director and actor, has been the director of the program since 1993. He received his M.F.A. in directing from Boston University, where he was awarded the prestigious Kahn Directing Award in 1985. Seer has directed or appeared in more than 70 productions at regional theaters in this country and Great Britain.
He originated the role of Young Charlie in the 1978 Tony Award-winning Broadway production of Hugh Leonard’s “Da” and received the Theatre World Award for his performance. Plays included in his direction at the Globe are “Life of Riley,” “The Last Romance,” “The Price,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” “Trying,” “Fiction,” “Blue/Orange,” “All My Sons,” “Da," and “Old Wicked Songs.”
When choosing a project for the program, Seer said he likes to mix the genres up.
“I like to do a comedy when I’ve just done a drama, etc. I chose ‘Twelfth Night’ for this production because we try to select plays that are not in competition with what The Globe is presenting. Also, I consider this one of Shakespeare’s best plays,” he said.
The comedy is about a shipwreck on the rocky coast of India where Viola (Allison Spratt Pearce) disguises herself as a man to be safe and find a job. She ends up as a page in the court working and falling for Duke Orsino (Christopher Salazar). He, however, has his sights on the beautiful Olivia (Deborah Radloff), who in turn becomes infatuated with the new man in court who is really Viola in disguise.
If that’s not enough amusement, there are plenty of laughs when servant Malvolio (Jonathan Spivey) gets tricked by Maria (Rachael Jenison) and Sir Toby Belch (Adam Daveline). This all causes delicious havoc throughout the house.
Seer is very familiar with the play; he’s acted in it several times and directed it twice. But he had his own take on this version that the students perform. A fan of David Lean’s films (“Bridge on the River Kwai,” “Lawrence of Arabia”) Seer said he really liked “A Passage to India.”
“In re-reading ‘Twelfth Night,’ I thought, what a great place to set this play, in India during the rein of the British in the 1920s,” he said. “It presented all kinds of fun since we have both British and Indian characters, and it’s actually kind of sexy. There are — what was presumed back then as — the uptight Brits meeting face to face with a country that embraces the Kama Sutra and has a more sensual feel to it. This is very right for what happens in ‘Twelfth Night.’ ”
With a youthful cast and tickets at reasonable prices, Seer believes it’s a great time to get younger family members interested in live theatre. Seer explained the cast is professional and many performed with the summer repertory company that has become The Globe’s junior company. He auditions hundreds of students interested in classical work from around the country for the program, but takes only about seven a year.