Edit ModuleShow Tags

Have a Gay Ol’ Time with 'Twelfth Night'

San Diego Junior Theatre does gender-bending Shakespeare with professional-level talent and modern flair


Marc Berger, Gaia Micciancio, and Gabriella Martien in Twelfth Night by San Diego Junior Theatre | Photo by Ken Jacque

Shakespeare is challenging even for seasoned adult actors. The language is so unfamiliar that if you don’t thoroughly understand what you’re saying, know where the emphases and punchlines and connotations lie, and how to hit them with the appropriate expression and body language, you can memorize your lines perfectly and they’ll still buzz right over the audience’s heads like the fine print in a pharmaceutical ad.

Given this, you’d be forgiven for feeling hesitant about a high- and middle-school-age production of Twelfth Night. But these aren’t just any young actors—they are San Diego Junior Theatre, the oldest continuously operating youth theater organization in the country. Now in its 72nd season, the company’s founding predates La Jolla Playhouse by 11 years, San Diego Rep by 28. They’re so OG their website is just juniortheatre.com. So it’s safe to say they’re no lightweights.

I’d only read Twelfth Night once, back in college, and had never seen it, so I figure I’m a good test audience for effectively communicating Early Modern English. And the lead actors here not only get it, they make it their own. After being separated from her twin brother in a shipwreck, Viola (Fiona Byrne) disguises herself as a man named “Cesario” to enter the service of Duke Orsino (Seth Holt), whom she quickly falls in love with. Orsino is in love with Lady Olivia (Genevieve Foster), but when he sends “Cesario” to deliver word of his affection, Olivia falls in love with “Cesario” instead.

Genevieve Foster, Hunter Mackay, Fiona Byrne, and Seth Holt in Twelfth Night by San Diego Junior Theatre | Photo by Ken Jacques

It’s a classic romantic comedy love triangle. There actually isn’t much to Orsino’s character besides “is a lord,” but Holt breathes life and charisma into it. Byrne delivers a nuanced performance of the inner conflict and social dexterity that comes with being the center of all this attention. Foster’s transition from stoic mourning to besotted seducer lets her deploy some great physical comedy—one perfectly timed fan deployment gets the biggest laughs of the play.

Director Justin Lang leans into the story’s inherent queer themes in a fun, effervescent way that adults and teens alike will enjoy, aided by gender-fluid casting and some truly fabulous costumes from Bertha Tulagan and lighting by David Romero. Drunken uncle Sir Toby Belch (Gaia Micciancio) and his cohorts, aspirant suitor Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Marc Berger) and court jester Feste (Amaya Gray) are a natural fit for partying in Pride regalia and other assorted silliness. Micciancio is one of the most capable actors in the show, and Berger is a great foil; their timing together is sharp. Gray is very well cast for her skill in mime and song—her musical interludes, both in beautiful vocal solo and almost-convincing rubber-chicken-violin, are standout moments—but I fear that some of the jester’s intended wit and wordplay is lost to rushed line delivery.

Keep your eye on Caleb Haberman’s Malvolio. The play’s B-plot finds Sir Belch and Co. playing a mean trick on Olivia’s persnickety servant, convincing him by way of forged handwriting that Olivia is not only in love with him, but prefers a truly garish fashion style. Malvolio’s enthusiastic debutant-like entrance in said fashion and attempt at answering Olivia’s love brings down the house as Haberman elevates his unassuming secondary character to audience favorite.

I can’t express how pleased I am at getting to see these talented young people put on such a lively, entertaining production. Some of the minor characters don’t quite have the command over their cues and dialogue to keep a Shakespearean novice’s comprehension at 100 percent, but it never detracts long enough to drag the momentum down. If you want a glimpse of what’s to come in San Diego’s theater talent, come down to Casa del Prado—but be quick! There are just three performances left.


Twelfth Night, by San Diego Junior Theatre

At Casa del Prado Theatre through January 19

Tickets at juniortheatre.com

ASL-interpreted performance at 2 p.m. Saturday, the 18th

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Related Stories

Local Roots Brings Hard Kombucha To North County

The Vista-based kombucha brewery is booming

Angelo Sosa leaves Death by Tequila, San Diego Gets SoCal’s First Native American-Owned Brewery

After a long holiday break, Hot Plates returns

Ring In the New Year Sans Alcohol

Dry January is a great way to get the benefits of going alcohol-free, but why stop there?
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Come See What’s New in Palm Springs

This SoCal city is constantly reinventing the landscape with new places to stay and play

Win Tickets to the 42nd Annual SDCCU Holiday Bowl

This year’s USC vs. Iowa match-up marks the Holiday Bowl’s third straight paring of teams that are ranked nationally in the top 25
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. The Best Chicken Wings In San Diego
    The results of food critic Troy Johnson’s epic quest for the city’s best tiny chicken
  2. San Diego's Best New Restaurants of 2019
    From a 200 million-dollar renovation project to a dirty little burger, these made a dent
  3. The Must-Try Dishes of 2019
    SD Mag food critic and Food Network judge Troy Johnson names his top dishes of the year
  4. Video: A Peek At Our Insiders Club
    For members only…New perks, insider info and access to the editors
  5. The SoCal (Social Calendar!)
    From black-tie galas to costumed 5Ks, these events will keep your social calendar full—and you feeling good
  6. Where to Celebrate New Year's Eve in San Diego 2020
    Whether you’re celebrating the end of a decade or the beginning of a new one, these are fine choices of venue.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module