This past weekend, I played Malvolio in the Oak Island Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s .
The production was set in 1969 with a set that resembled a music festival and costumes that echoed the flower power and summer of love vibes. The music was played live with a guitarist and a percussionist. Some songs were contemporary and others were Shakespeare’s words matched to contemporary music. I thought it was very effective.
For Malvolio, I attempted to play him more sympathetically than perhaps other versions I’ve seen. The underlying motivation was that he didn’t want to be the jerk that he was. He saw it as his job, his duty to the mourning Olivia. He only wanted to keep her safe and happy. If he had to be an asshole to make that happen, he was willing to do that. Obviously, this is a flawed person to think that way but I think it was more interesting to play than his being a Puritan who simply hates music, theatre, and drink because of some religious fervor and pure ambition. My Malvolio was ambitious but his ambition was for love and power instead of just power alone. It’s left to the audience to decide how successful that approach was.
I enjoyed trying to play this slightly more complex Malvolio. I also enjoyed being silly and ridiculous in his sparkly yellow “cross-gartering” bellbottoms. I was impressed with how well the cast adapted to changing locations and changing scenes and lines up to the opening of the show. Everyone was focused on putting together a fun and approachable romp. I think we pulled it off with panache.