This week the University of Massachusetts Boston's Performing Arts Department's spring production of "Twelfth Night" will be held in McCormack Theatre. William Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" is a comedy propelled by deception and romance.

"Twelfth Night" is the story of Viola who assumes the identity of a man 'Cesario' and is hired by Duke Orsino of Illyria. Duke Orsino is in love with Lady Olivia, who has sworn off marrying for seven years. The Duke asks 'Cesario' to assist him in wooing Lady Olivia. The situation gets complicated when Olivia falls in love with the disguised Viola, who herself begins to have feelings for her employer Duke Orsino.

"It deals with love and cross-dressing. Gender questions abound, and there are a lot of mistaken identities, music, license, and puritanism," says Director and Professor of Theater Arts Daniel Gidrom. The "cast is terrific and the story is fun," he added.

Auditions for "Twelfth Night" were held on Feb. 5-6 and production began around early March.  

Cat Roberts stars in the lead role as Viola/Cersario, Ezra Brown plays Duke Orsino, and Lady Olivia is played by Alycia Modeste.

In the role of Viola/Cersario, Roberts says, "[Viola] is ballsy… I want to bring out her determination, which I think is her strongest feature. It's not a love story about her falling for the Duke, it's a survival story and she falls in love along the way."

"Women during this era had virtually no way to survive without a male escort, and masquerading as a man would inflict serious consequences; Viola does both."

Of his character, Brown expressed that the Duke was "raised on servants handing him delicacies, silk sheets and goose feather pillows," but despite being "pompous and arrogant," he is "deeply philosophical and very kind."

"The Duke will unknowingly fall into some very humorous situations, such as becoming quite a lot closer than he ever intended with who he thinks to be a male servant."

"The audience will certainly be laughing throughout the show, especially at a group of tricksters whose antics result in sword fights, confusion, and humiliation," said Brown.

When questioned how he makes the Shakespeare play "his own," Gidron said, "I bring years of experience with acting and directing Shakespeare and comedies. I emphasize dealing with the language, speaking the verse and prose, making the language and the situation clear, and enjoying and relishing the challenge of making Shakespeare immediate and understandable without "dumming it down."

April 26 marks the 450th anniversary of William Shakespeare's birthday.

The performance times are 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 16 and Thursday, April 17; 8 p.m. on Friday, April 18; and a double showing on Saturday, April 19 at 2 and 8 p.m. Extended shuttle services will be available to transport students at the later hours. The admission price is $10 for UMass Boston students and $15 for the general public. Tickets are available at the door and online at the UMass Boston website.

For any questions regarding the show, Tanya Williams of the Performing Arts Department can be reached at 617-287-5640.

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