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As You Like It

One of the hallmarks of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival is its unflinching commitment to adaptations of the Bard's work. They do this not for its own sake, but to keep things fresh for the patrons, many of whom have attended a significant portion of the CSF's 49 seasons. This constant need to reinvent the classics can be challenging, particularly given the interplay of historical detail and settings that underlie the histories and tragedies. The comedies, however, are another matter, generally permitting a greater degree of flexibility.

Taking advantage of this untethered nature in As You Like It, Director Gavin Cameron-Webb turns the story into a Hollywood "screwball comedy," along the lines of those filmed between 1934 and 1942 to distract Depression-weary Americans from their destitution and the economic and political issues at the heart of the cyclical booms and busts of capitalism.

The premise works well most of the time, providing stylistic choices that fondly recall various personalities and m.o.s of the period. From the opening MGM lion's roar to the appearance of the wiseacre bellhops near the conclusion, we're carried along on a madcap ride of usurpation, disinheritance, and disguise until the bad guys see the errors of their ways and love and order are restored.

Sarah Dandridge as Rosalind and Elgin Kelley as Celia
(L to R) Sarah Dandridge as Rosalind
and Elgin Kelley as Celia
Photo Credit: Lou Costy
Celia and Rosalind are first cousins and the best of friends, but their fathers are enemies, so, like Hope and Crosby, they hit the road, ending up in Arden Forest. Elgin Kelley's talkative and impetuous Celia is as wacky as Judy Holliday, with a variety of physical and vocal ploys to match; while Sarah Dandridge's reserved and romantic Rosalind is reminiscent of Katharine Hepburn's sharp, head-strong, and well-spoken heroines.

Matthew Penn as Jaques and Lucas Rocco Alifano as Orlando
(L to R) Matthew Penn
as Jaques
and Lucas Rocco Alifano
as Orlando
Photo Credit: Lou Costy
Rosalind falls in love with the handsome and brave Orlando, who, despite being denied his share of his father's estate by his brother, stays upbeat and on the sunny side of the street. Lucas Rocco Alifano juggles a number of Orlando's variables—undereducated, yet cultured; rustic, yet genteel; naive, yet insightful—in his pursuit of Rosalind, giving us glimpses of Cary Grant's tongue–in–cheek style.

Oxfordians will recognize the playwright in the character of Jacques, a melancholy observer who delivers two of the most memorable monologues:


"... Invest me in my motley; give me leave
To speak my mind, and I will through and through
Cleanse the foul body of the infected world,
If they will patiently receive my medicine."

and,

                         "All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts ..."

In an otherwise well-directed and conceived production, Cameron-Webb breaks the fourth wall in the final scene with a cameo by the film's director, who usurps Jacques summary and marginalizes him in the process. Inserted in this manner, the director seems gratuitous, but it would have been interesting to see the consequences had Jacques been cast as the director, as his proprietary perspective indicates he is. Matt Penn certainly has the panache to pull this off.

Nicole M. Harrison-Hoof has a field day with the get-ups, from the masquerade ball costumes to the hobos' rags; music director, Aaron Johnson, and sound designer, Kevin Dunayer fill the evening with a pastiche of romantic airs, coarse shanties, and wistful melodies.

The Colorado Shakespeare Festival's As You Like It runs through August 19th in repertory with Merchant of Venice and The Tempest at the University of Colorado-Boulder. 303-492-0554 or at www.coloradoshakes.org.

Bob Bows

 

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