‘Twelfth Night’ mixes lowbrow comedy, highbrow wit

Female case members of Twelfth Night

Left to right: Chiagoziem Nawakanma, Aislinn Eng, Dana Muelchi, Becca Brown, Emily Woods and Destiny Strothers in Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” Photo: Michael Brosilow

The UIC Theatre production of “Twelfth Night” — considered one of Shakespeare’s finest mixtures of lowbrow bawdiness and highbrow wit — opens Nov. 15, directed by Rob Clare, a British specialist in the Bard’s work.

Clare says “Twelfth Night” is “perhaps the darkest and most complex of Shakespeare’s comedies, a play of love, loss, mistaken identity, and actual as well as emotional shipwreck.”

Shakespeare set the story in the fictional Balkan seaboard state of Illyria, which he described in other works as the home of notorious pirates.

UIC brings the play closer to home, placing it “in the Caribbean or Central America, a hundred years or so ago,” Clare says, but the characters remain timeless as they struggle to make sense of emotional chaos.

Clare trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London and acted with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester before serving as staff director at the National Theatre.

As associate artistic director of Compass Theatre, he directed national tours of “Amadeus” with Tim Pigott-Smith and a prisons tour of “Comedians” with Rufus Sewell.

Since completing a doctorate at Oxford University in approaches to acting Shakespeare, he has become an internationally recognized specialist. Last summer, he co-directed “Henry IV” for the Marin Shakespeare Company. He soon will work on “Hamlet” with the Royal Shakespeare Company ensemble. He is artistic director of Kestrel Theatre Company, working in the United Kingdom criminal justice system.

Performances will be held Nov. 15, 16, 21, 22, 23 at 7:30 p.m.; Nov. 17, 20 and 24 at 2 p.m.; and Nov. 19 at noon, all at the UIC Theatre, 1044 W. Harrison St.

Tickets are $11 for UIC students, $14 for UIC faculty and staff and $16 for the general public. To order, 312-996-2939.