Shakespearean comedy goes Hong Kong retro

The mostly-Filipino female cast. Photo: Leviathan Lab

The grassroots theater company Leviathan Lab presents its inaugural production, Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” at the Arclight Theater at 152 West 71st Street from November 3 to 19.

In “Twelfth Night,” Viola, a young woman shipwrecked and stranded in the seaside city of Illyria, sets a series of events into motion that create a tangled knot of mistaken identities, bewildering desires, practical jokes and ribald revelry that only time and fortune can untie.

Inspired by the films of auteur Wong Kar-wai, Leviathan Lab’s re-imagining of Shakespeare’s classic romantic comedy will be set in Hong Kong in the 1960s during the 12 days of Christmas.

“The lush sensuality and deep sense of nostalgia that permeates the Hong Kong depicted in Wong Kar-wai’s films from the 1960s – “In the Mood for Love,” “Days of Being Wild” – feels like the kind of Illyria that makes your heart swoon,” said artistic director Nelson Eusebio. “That feeling of being drunk on love and romantic spirit seems perfect for the world of ‘Twelfth Night,’ a play very much about emotion grown to excess.”

The music of Hong Kong in the 1960s was a crazy mix of Chinese opera stars, Nat King Cole crooned in Spanish, and a lot of western pop imported by Filipino club musicians.

“This collage of musical styles provided Jason Ma with a feast of inspiration for Shakespeare’s most musical play,” he added.

Jason Ma has written three Broadway musicals, including a revival of the satire “Sly Fox” with Richard Dreyfuss, “Antony & Cleopatra” at The Public with Vanessa Redgrave, and an avant-garde “Peony Pavilion” in various European theatres.

Tickets to “Twelfth Night” are $18 general admission, $15 for students and seniors, with special prices for groups of 10 or more. For reservations, contact Oliver Oliveros at 213-344-8499 or email

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