Shakespeare’s comedies are the trickiest to modernize. The tragedies are rife with timeless dramatic irony; the histories are buoyed by broader context. But after updating, the comedies still need to be funny. Twelfth Night centers on the ideas of shipwreck and aristocracy, two conceits that force the play into old-fashioned territory. But if any company can make Shakespeare’s comedy work, it’s Folger Theatre. Its recent, wonderful production of Henry V succeeded in part because of the infectious humor of its final scenes where Henry seduces the French princess Katherine. The Folger seems to recognize that comedy is about much more than plot contrivances and unrequited love; there’s always something to think about once the play is over, even if we’re still laughing at Malvolio’s well-deserved embarrassment.
The play runs April 30 to June 9 at the Folger Elizabethan Theatre, 201 East Capitol St. SE. $30–$68. (202) 544-4600. folger.edu.