T. Schreiber Studio’s current production is an attempt to marry Twelfth Night to the neo-Victorian fashion subculture known as steampunk, a contemporary style infatuated with contraption design from the classic age of inventors. Unfortunately, this hybrid prototype doesn’t quite get off the ground.
Shakespeare’s Illyria is a colony for the self-indulgent: Tortured lovers, drunks, and hair shirts while away their days gazing at navels and mirrors with equal avidity until simple and good Viola washes up on shore and crashes the party dressed as a man—bringing the stars into alignment by first knocking them out of whack.
Unfortunately, director Cat Parker seems to miss the whole argument at the play’s core, relinquishing exploration of its major themes (decadence, deception) in favor of a pedestrian staging larded down with a bunch of gewgaws that don’t illuminate the play: video projection, piped-in alt-rock, and a single, rather pathetic steampunk-inspired contraption. The cast’s interactions with this gizmo are symbolic of the production’s greater difficulties: They don’t quite seem to know what it does or how it works. To quote Arthur Koestler (or was it Sting?), there is no ghost in the machine.