This was some clever, buzzworthy marketing, and both productions – listed separately – were Critic’s Picks in The New York Times. Same script, different approaches: a theatrical banality, were it not for the simultaneity and the inspired/tortured logistics of two separate productions of the same script by the same company with the same actors and same director in rep under two different names. Promotional genius? Perhaps. At the same time, something about the two titles gestures towards a crux of both surface nomenclature and underlying theory in the very practical world of theatre-making. Guiding idea, central theme, production concept: anyone who goes to the theatre on a regular basis gets it, and by ‘it’ we probably just mean ‘directing’. But the two titles beg a greater question about scripts and productions and the director function that in some way mediates between them. We address that question with words that speak to our comfort level, our conservatism or otherwise, with what theatre people get up to when they try to make some new art that has an old script in it. Two themes. Two versions. Two interpretations. Two visions. Two productions. But Twelfth Night or What You Will/What You Will or Twelfth Night comes out and says the sacrilegious, or maybe just the obvious: concept be damned – two different ways really means two different plays.
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