Directed by Ted Lange, performed by the NC Black Repertory Company, Winston Square Park (FREE)

Additional info and showtimes can be found here.

Fans of the 1970s TV show “The Love Boat” might find it counterintuitive that Ted Lange, who played Isaac the bartender on the Pacific Princess cruise ship, has adapted Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night for the National Black Theater Festival Stage.

But really, it makes perfect sense.

Lange’s theater connections run deep. He cut his chops in San Francisco’s New Shakespeare Company in the 1970s, and his career followed a trajectory common to African-American actors of the era. He was in the cast of Hair on Broadway and played in the national touring production, but he also had a role in the blaxploitation kung-fu film Black Belt Jones and played a recurring character, Junior, in the sitcom “That’s My Mama” before landing the “Love Boat” gig. In the 1980s, he graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, where the Bard was definitely part of the curriculum.

Consider, too, that Lange’s Twelfth Night takes place in Jamaica instead of the Illyrian coast, the soundtrack replaced with Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff tunes.

The story remains the same: A shipwrecked noblewoman, Viola, disguised as a man for her safety, falls for Duke Orsino, who in turn loves Olivia, another noblewoman who has taken a seven-year vow of chastity to mourn her slain father and brother. And so the Duke enlists Viola, in disguise, to help him gain the affection of Olivia. It’s not unlike some of the storylines spun on “The Love Boat.”

And really, “The Love Boat” wasn’t all that different from those early days at Stratford-on-Avon. Instead of the balcony, the wooded clearing and the castle great hall, the Pacific Princess had the Lido Deck, the Acapulco Lounge and Captain Steubing’s table. Both relied on romantic farce, love triangles and minor subterfuge as plot devices. And Isaac the bartender, along with the rest of the ship’s crew, made for a handy Greek Chorus to give exposition to the plot.

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