TWELFTH NIGHT is a full-fledged riot at San Quentin Prison

TWELFTH NIGHT, or WHAT YOU WILL: By William Shakespeare, Adapted by Lesley and Robert Currier, performed by the men of SHAKESPEARE AT SAN QUENTIN. Director: Suraya Keating. Assistant Director: Lesley Currier. Choreography: Cassandra Wolff. Backdrop Artists: Scott McKinstry, Pat Maloney, and Kevin O'Donnell.

TWELFTH NIGHT is a full-fledged riot at San Quentin Prison

Marin Shakespeare Company, under the direction of Lesley Carrier, has sponsored Shakespeare at San Quentin for the past eight years and the members of that group voted to produce 12th Night rather than Hamlet this year. When the San Francisco Critic’s Circle was invited to see the play many quickly accepted and were treated to hilarious campy once in a life time performance that earned a spontaneous standing ovation.

This concept revision of the play takes place in 1960 and has added a singing group to introduce the action. They are called The Valentines(ANGEL ALVAREZ, JOEY BARNES, ERIC LOWERY, PERRY "SPIKE" SIMPSON) led by Romeo Valentine (A. TERRELL MERRITT) a song- master to Orsino, Duke of Illyria (ERIN O'CONNOR). The Duke is in love with Olivia (MIKE ANTHONY) a beautiful and rich Countess. Alas, Olivia spurns Orsino’s advances and what is a love struck Duke to do? Fortunately for him, along comes Cesario a handsome youth (Lesley Currier) who works as servant to Orsino. Unbeknownst to the Duke, Cesario is really Viola who was shipwrecked, saved by A Sea Captain (JOHN OWEN NEBLETT) and his sailors (JOEY BARNES, JOHN VADEN). They put her ashore on the Isle of Illyria disguising herself as a boy to be safe in her travels. Who knows what might happen to a damsel traveling alone? You see, in this play it is not safe for a woman to travel alone.

Viola/Cesario instantly falls in love with Orsino, but alas he/she is sent to woo lovely Olivia who falls in love with Cesario/Viola. Complications arise. In the hilarious/hysterical secondary plot, Olivia’s drunken cousin Sir Toby Belch (B. C. Harvey) is entertaining his best buddy Sir Andrew Aguecheek, a rich knight (JONATHAN WILSON) who has the hots for Olivia but the mean spirited head honcho servant Malvolio, Olivia's steward,(LUKE PADGETT) who is secretly in love with her tries to put kibosh on their rowdy actions. He learns quickly not to mess with the help. Maria, servant to Olivia (Elizabeth Keller) joins the mischievous pair getting Malvolio to think the lovely Olivia is in love with him. Poor Malvolio, they convince him Olivia loves him, and wants to see him in yellow stockings. When Malvolio does this, Olivia thinks he has gone mad and has him thrown in prison.

Meanwhile, Antonio, a Sea Captain (JOHN OWEN NEBLETT)who has rescued Sebastian, Viola’s twin brother (ANGEL ALVAREZ ) gets into the whirlpool of deception when he rescues Cesario/Viola from a duel with Sir Andrew thinking He/She is Sebastian. There are is two more character to get into the act. One is Feste(JOEY MASON) Olivia’s jester and the other is Sri Yogi Maharishi (HENRY "BLACK MYTH" MONTGOMERY) who has married Olivia and Sebastian. Never fear, all’s well that ends well and it does except for poor Molvolio who is deeply hurt and trudges off into oblivion. Viola gets Orsini and he’s happy. Maria marries Sir Toby and they are happy.

The great fun in this production is that it truly is an ensemble performance. The cast seems to be having as much, or more fun than the audience and they dance up a storm in the “semi-production numbers” ( choreography by Cassandra Wolff) and lip synch to such songs as “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”, “These Boots Were Made for Travelling”, “Tip Toe Through the Tulips”, “Can’t Get No Satisfaction”, “Stand By Me”, “Let Me Hold Your Hand” and “AllMy Love” to name a few. JOEY MASON is great as Feste as he plays a real guitar and sings his own lyrics. The fight scene(s) are choreographed to the “William Tell Overture!”

You will note that the non-inmate cast members are listed in non-capital script and the men of SHAKESPEARE AT SAN QUENTIN are in capital letters to emphasize that they did a capital job. ERIN O’CONNER’s tall frame and staid demeanor is truly a regal Duke of Illyria. MIKE ANTHONY, in drag as Olivia, plays it straight, never over doing the feminine gestures and is a perfect foil for those over acting around him. JOEY MASON has a fine singing voice and strums a mean guitar even getting to lead the finale. ANGEL ALVAREZ projects a virile Sebastian and handles his cardboard sword like a pro. A. TERRELL MERRITT as leader of The Valentines shakes his butt with the best of the cast and always with a smile.

Sorry gang, it is LUKE PADGETT who steals the show with his very distinctive, uptight depicting of Malvolio and he gets to deliver the “Some men are great, others have greatness thrust upon them. . .” speech with satirical authority and his hurt at being so badly treated is shared by the audience. Occasionally the professional actors Lesley Currier (Viola/Cesario) and B. C. Harvey (Sir Toby Belch) ham it up more than a bit but they allow the inmate cast to garner the accolades.

Kedar K. Adour, MD Courtesy of