Hindi isn’t the only language into which Mumbai’s Company Theatre has translated Twelfth Night. They’ve also rendered it into a theatrical style that takes liberties with everything but Shakespeare’s plot points. But if the foreign language forces an Anglophone to depend on English supertitles, the foreign conventions are universally accessible. Delightful too.
Twelfth Night is the one where Viola washes up on the coast of Illyria after a shipwreck, thinking her twin brother has been drowned (he hasn’t). She disguises herself as a young man, and under the name Cesario joins the court of Duke Orsino, who’s sick with love for the rich, beautiful, apparently unattainable Olivia. Naturally, Cesario/Viola falls for Orsino, and Olivia falls for Cesario. Other people do some falling, as well. Romantic high jinks ensue.
In town for only two performances—the second is Thursday—as part of the yearlong Shakespeare 400 Chicago celebration, Company Theatre doesn’t much bother about high and low status or creating even so much verisimilitude as Shakespeare himself affected. This is a clown show from the moment Sagar Deshmukh’s Orsino hits the stage in a porkpie hat and a red robe out of a Saint Nicholas pageant, striking poses and assailing the audience with riffs on the play’s famous “If music be the food of love . . . ” line. A three-member band performs upstage, under a portrait of a crowned Shakespeare; the actors line up behind the musicians—sitting but never still, never quite out of the action—when they’re not dancing, giving fourth-wall-be-damned speeches, or singing songs the Bard never dreamed of writing, like “A Song of Romance Where Lovers Helplessly Dance” and, of course, “Meow, Meow, Meow.” Geetanjali Kulkarni’s Cesario wears a drawn-on mustache. Boxer shorts are sighted.
Piya Behrupia (Twelfth Night) Through 9/29: Thu 7:30 PM, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Navy Pier, 800 E. Grand, 312-595-5600, chicagoshakes.com, $48.