As You Like It, currently in production at Annapolis Shakespeare Company, lends a more updated version of William Shakespeare’s comedy. Circa 1930s bluegrass, this cast is widely diverse and wonderfully talented, as each actor takes on multiple roles.
As You Like It, directed by Sally Boyett, is a charming romantic comedy. Both the set and the costumes are simplistic where just enough is offered to show time and place. However, the “less is more” theory works impressively with this talented cast.
Teresa Spencer is the lovely as Rosalind, who at a wrestling match, instantaneously falls for Orlando (Jonathan Feuer). On the flip side, Rosalind is clever and willing takes charge of her own life when she is sent into exile. There, she disguises herself as Ganymede – a handsome young man. Spencer easily transitions from Rosalind to Ganymede and plays it as she should; a woman pretending to be a man with a fake deep voice and jaunty moves. Spencer leans toward the comedic side but still keeps it realistic for Rosalind’s intentions as a man is to get her guy.
Jonathan Feuer brings Orlando to life when he wrestles Charles (Reed DeLisle), convincingly choreographed by Casey Kaleba, for his fortune his brother Oliver (James Carpenter) has kept from him. Though Feuer is rough and tough in the wrestling scene, he really plays Orlando as a gentle soul. His soft vocals makes him a likable character and his singing tones make him a lovable man.
Both Spencer and Feuer radiate with chemistry in a flirty and wanting way. Their eyes spark with desire and their barely turned up lips are pursed with curiosity. Even when Spencer plays Ganymede, to hide her identity, their affections for one another are undeniable.
Renata Plecha takes on the roles of Celia, Aliena, and Phoebe. As Celia she is charming with her doe eyes and sweet smile. Additionally, her character is loyal to her dearest cousin, Rosalind, and joins her in exile. In the Forest, Celia becomes a timid shepherdess named Aliena. Plecha’s facial expressions demonstrated her engagement in the other players’ roles as she follows their movement and attentively listens to their words. However, Phoebe is quite the opposite with her alluring moves and saucy style that is until it is revealed that Ganymede really is Rosalind. All’s well that ends well, for Celia takes an instant liking to Oliver.
Megan Morse Jans is Hisperia, Lady Amiens, and Audrey. Her characters for the most part are proper. Jans lends her elegance and beauty to her characters but the real treat is her voice. Jans’ acapella voice is positively angelic.
The surprise is Richard Pilcher who is Adam, Duke Frederick, Jacques, and Corin. It is impressive how Pilcher transitions from character to character. In one moment he is the fierce Duke Frederick and then is feeble Adam. Pilcher and his acting abilities demonstrate a gambit of emotions. Duke Frederick is filled with anger, yet Jacques marvels at love yet maintains his distance. Opposing that is Corin, a shepherd who attempts to advise his friend Silvius in the ways of love.
In many of Shakespeare’s plays there is always a jester or fool who also is a confident. In this case, Gary DuBreuil as Touchstone is that character. A silly ventriloquist, he accompanies Rosalind and Celia to the Forest of Ardenne. DuBreuil really offers the comic relief in this character that is fraught with naughty language and lewd innuendos and it works for a good laugh. He also takes on the roles of Dennis, Lord, and Silvius. As Silvius, he is a young shepherd, suffering through his love for Phoebe, who constantly rejects him.
James Carpenter plays the characters Oliver, LeBeau, and Duke Senior. Carpenter is a natural in roles of authority. He carries himself well with strong posture and succinct annunciation of his lines. In the forest, he is saved by his brother Orlando. Oliver regrets how he has treated his brother and perhaps with a lighter heart, he manages to find love with Aliena. As Rosalind’s father, it is sweet when the two find each other in the woods and are reunited.
Reed DeLisle is rough and ready with distinctive movements as Charles who wrestles with Orlando. DeLisle also plays the roles of Lord, William, and Sir Oliver Martext. He has a certain boyish charm that adds a layer of virtue to his characters.
The set, designed by Scenic Designer Mariana Fernandez, has tree trunks painted on the upstage wall with varying size painted frames enhancing the Forest of Ardenne. The props were comprised of buckets, baskets, bouquets, and a butter churn. Adam Mendelson adds his talents as Lighting Designer, where leaf-like patterns are cast on the stage, indicating the thickness of the forest. Cleverly, the lighting was used to signify flash photography. Gregory Thomas Martin pulls the technical elements together as the Sound Designer with Megan Morse Jans as the musical assistant.
With the time period set in Post-Depression era, it clearly is transcends with the costumes. The men are layered in shirts and vests with some in suits, where the country folk where acid washed jeans, boots and some don caps. Touchstone is humorously mismatched in checks and plaids. The gals wear dresses with bonnet-like hats decorated with flowers. Their dresses are patterns of the time, plaid or small flowered print and their lace-up shoes had a chunky heel.
As You Like It, is a lighthearted and playful production that blossoms into a hoe-down that includes “yee-haws,” “do-si-does,” and knee-slapping bluegrass tunes. This is not just a cast; it is a company that demonstrates their deep passion for Shakespeare with their flowing movement, clear expression of Shakespeare’s language, and their joy through their craft. It’s enjoyable Shakespeare that ends with a smile.
Running Time: 2 hours and 20 minutes, with one-15 minute intermission.
As You Like It plays through November 15, 2015 at Annapolis Shakespeare Company Studio – 111 Chinquapin Round Road, Suite 114, Annapolis, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 415-3513, or purchase them online.