In other words, the perfect time for William Shakespeare's TWELFTH NIGHT, or 'What You Will' -- which Lincoln Center Theater presented in the summer of 1998 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater.
Helen Hunt -- who received the 1998 Academy Award for Best Actress -- played Viola in this new TWELFTH NIGHT. She is an alumna of Lincoln Center Theater, having appeared as Emily Webb in LCT's 1989 production of Our Town. In the intervening decade, she's enjoyed a thriving career on television (winning two Emmys for her role on the NBC series "Mad About You") and in films, including Twister and As Good As It Gets, for which she won the Oscar.
TWELFTH NIGHT's cast of 22 included some other terrific LCT alumni: Tony winner Philip Bosco (The Heiress) as Malvolio, Brian Murray (The Little Foxes) as Sir Toby Belch, and Max Wright (Ivanov) as Sir Andrew Aguecheek. Also featured were the wonderful actors Paul Rudd (co-star of the Broadway play Last Night of Ballyhoo and the film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet) and Kyra Sedgwick (a 2-time Golden Globe nominee and co-star of the films Phenomenon and Something To Talk About).
Tony Award winner Nicholas Hytner, who caused a splash here in 1994 with his marvelous re-thinking of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel, directed this new TWELFTH NIGHT.
TWELFTH NIGHT had dazzling sets by Bob Crowley (who also won a Tony Award for Carousel), costumes by Catherine Zuber (who did such a lovely job on Ivanov) and lighting by Natasha Katz (a Tony nominee for Beauty and the Beast). The play starts and ends with music and is dotted throughout with songs, and Jeanine Tesori, composer of the award-winning musical Violet, wrote the original score.
This was Lincoln Center Theater's first Shakespearean production in about a decade (Measure for Measure was at the Newhouse Theater in 1989) and it was produced in association with Lincoln Center Festival, the annual summer extravaganza which brings a wide range of performances from around the world to New York City for three weeks in July. During the limited run of eleven weeks, 24 performances were included as part of Festival 98 (which ran from July 7 through July 26), alongside many other offerings at the various venues around Lincoln Center.
TWELFTH NIGHT was written 400 years ago, but this madcap tale of mistaken identities and misplaced affection is truly timeless. Thus, LCT's new production was not rooted in a specific time or place, although it did have a contemporary feel. Shakespeare's gender-bending plot revolves around Viola and Sebastian, fraternal twins who are separated in a shipwreck, each one erroneously believing the other to be dead. Viola lands in the fictional kingdom of Illyria and disguises herself as a boy to become the attendant of Orsino, the Duke of Illyria, who is in love with Countess Olivia. When Olivia rebuffs Orsino's advances, he sends Viola (newly renamed Cesario) to woo her for him, but Olivia falls in love with Cesario/Viola instead.
Meanwhile... Sebastian also arrives in Illyria. Since he is a dead ringer for his sister, everyone thinks he is Cesario and comic complications ensue. As this is a comedy, all misunderstandings are resolved and the principals are happily paired off in the end, much to the consternation of Olivia's acerbic steward Malvolio, who is mocked by his peers, fails to find love, and vows to gain revenge on everyone involved.