BWW Reviews: Theatreworks' AS YOU LIKE IT - A Rustic Revel in Rock Ledge
Near the end of Thursday's performance of Theatreworks' As You Like It at Rock Ledge Ranch the generator gave out, plunging the entire tent into darkness mid-denouement. Happily several members of the audience had brought flashlights for the post-show trek back to the parking lot, and the play continued by their light until power could be restored. It was a fitting ending for an evening that was filled with high spirits, generous hearts, and people finding joy and contentment even in adverse circumstances.
Love and loyalty about in the forest of Arden, a solace to those who suffer at the hands of bitter, treacherous relatives who, since they lack nobility and sincerity, are unable to appreciate it in others. The best thing about the cast Joseph Discher has assembled for this production is how easily and naturally they convey the tender affections which drive the protagonists. Whether it's the sisterly bond of cousins Rosalind (Mandy Olsen) and Celia (Rebekah Fernendez), the unwavering loyalty of aging manservant Adam (Michael Augenstein) to his dispossessed lord Orlando (Shannon Michael Wamser), or the instant attraction between Rosalind and Orlando, the players fill the stage with a warmth that banishes the chill of the unusually damp summer. When lovers sing the praises of their idols and compose embarrassingly bad poetry in their honor, we feel their sincerity even as we laugh at their foolishness.
For As You Like It is a comedy first and foremost, and there are plenty of laughs to be had during the middle section when Rosalind, disguised as a man (Olsen cuts quite a dashing figure in breeches) finds ways for Orlando to "woo" her while simultaneously discouraging the misguided attentions of a lusty shepherdess (Mackenzie Paulson). Shakespeare's wit and wordplay is ably presented by Andrew Sturt as the fool Touchstone. On the more somber side of things, Tom Paradise assays an excellent dual role as the banished Duke Senior and his usurping brother Frederick, giving the former an expansive, wisely philosophical nature and infusing the latter with vindictiveness and gall. And as the morose courtier Jacques, Patrick Toon delivers the play's most famous speech ("All the world's a stage") with impressive gravity and reflection.
Discher's direction focuses on the play's celebration of the natural world and its ability to release us from the pressures and prisons of everyday life, and Scott Aranow's set ably conveys this theme, with heavy, rich draperies gradually stripped away to reveal a simple, abstract wood frame about which the cast clambers. The music is effective throughout (particularly the setting of "It was a lover and his lass") and the natural environs are used to their best advantage. It is, on the whole, a fulfilling evening of Shakespeare-but you may want to keep a flashlight handy, just in case.
Theatreworks' AS YOU LIKE IT plays now through August 23rd at Rock Ledge Ranch, Tuesdays through Saturdays at 7:30pm. For tickets, contact the box office at 719-255-3232 or visit theatreworkscs.org.
PHOTO CREDIT: Isaiah Downing
Mandy Olsen, Shannon Michael Wamser