“If music be the food of love, play on,” says Duke Orsino in William Shakespeare’s play, “Twelfth Night.” But you can now see an Indian American actor mouthing those famous lines in a new theatrical production.
Bhavesh Patel has made his Shakespeare Theater Company debut with a romantic lead role. He has taken on the role of Orsino in Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of “Twelfth Night,” directed by Ethan McSweeny.
Featuring Antoinette Robinson as Viola and Tony Award nominee Hannah Yelland as Olivia, Shakespeare’s comic tale of unrequited love will run at Sidney Harman Hall in Washington, D.C., through Dec. 20, 2017.
In “Twelfth Night,” while being stranded on the coast of IIIyria, and separated from her brother, the quick-witted Viola assumes the disguise of a page boy for Duke Orsino and finds herself at the center of an explosive love triangle in which identity, passion and gender all threaten to come undone.
“Orsino is such a great part that I think gets messed up a lot,” Patel was quoted as saying by dctheaterscene.com. “He’s the guy who is in love with love. In a lot of ways, he’s in love with the sound of his own voice. In actuality, and I think this is where Ethan and I found a simpatico, is that he’s a man who wants to be in love and wants someone to love him, and that’s something very universal and human. I’m hoping I am creating an Orsino who is both dynamic and passionate, but also relatable.”
Patel was eight when his family of six moved from Chicago to Du Quoin, Illinois, making them the only “brown people” in a town of 6,000, Patel told GQ India. His instinctive pledge for inclusion led him to work his way through school sports teams, until he found his jam, at age 14: his first role, as the crazy Doctor Einstein in the high school adaptation of “Arsenic And Old Lace,” he told the magazine. “For the first time, I felt people noticed me for what was inside of me, rather than the way I looked.”
Patel, who earned his master of fine arts degree from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, has been working the New York Broadway scene for over 14 years. His Broadway and Off-Broadway credits include “Present Laughter,” “Shakespeare in the Park,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “War Horse,” which won the Tony Award for Best Play, and “Haydn’s Seven Last Words.”
Though Patel has mostly been associated with theater, his acting resume also comprises of appearances in films such as “Gold,” “Wilding,” “2 Days in New York” and “Maiden Heist,” and stints on TV shows, including “Mysteries of Laura,” “The Good Wife,” “Elementary,” “Blue Bloods,” “White Collar” and “Gossip Girl.”
“Theatre can be very under the radar,” the 37-year-old admitted to GQ India. “But it’s the only medium that requires you to have the energy of an athlete and the focus to gauge an audience’s reaction and transform that into a powerful performance.”