Arts Runoff: As You Like It

Arts Runoff is a Middblog series of performance reviews, originally written by JP Allen ’11. Emily Jacke ’12.5 has taken over the series for the fall.

As You Like It ~ Fri & Sat at 8pm, Sat at 2 pm.             Wright Theatre. Tickets $12/10/6.

Summary: One of Shakespeare’s timeless comedies, As You Like It, set in a sort of liminal World War I period and punctuated with music, follows Rosalind, her cousin Celia, and the fool Touchstone on their flight into the Wood of Arden. Rosalind’s cross-dressing lends her and her sister protection; it also throws wrenches into her romantic wonderings. In the forest we meet her exiled father and his court and, conveniently, the object of her affections, Orlando – who does not recognize her. Lights and Set by Hallie Zeiselman, Costumes by Jule Emerson and Annie Ulrich, Musical Direction by Carol Christensen, featuring musicians Elias Alexander and Terri Conti, Directed by Cheryl Faraone. A Production of the Middlebury College Department of Theatre. The cast is sadly too large to list everyone; featured are: Christina Fox, Sarah Lusche (whose senior work this is!), Jake Connolly, Molly O’Keefe, Ben Orbison & Teddy Anderson. A full cast list can be found on the posters. Tickets are available at the Box Office for Friday at 8pm, and Saturday at 2pm & 8pm. $12/10/6.

Good: To begin with, this is Shakespeare, and how refreshing to see the Bard onstage at Middlebury! Furthermore, the actors handle the text gamely so that the audience is swept up in the story and you can almost forget that they speak in verse; the language keeps you on your toes at all times, but the rhythm of the action and the clear, dynamic performances of the actors deepen comprehension. Christina Fox (Rosalind) and Jake Connolly (Orlando) make the smallest motions resonate with familiar tension – confusion, adoration, bravado and longing all reduced to moments of speechlessness; Sarah Lusche (Celia) glides through devotion, disbelief, daring and dalliance with alacrity and wit. Ben Orbison portrays Touchstone the clown with his customary directness and physical wit. Really everybody was just fantastic, but I’d be exhausting the delight and surprise of the show by giving too many shoutouts – you simply must see it all for yourself.

The design is fantastic. I was simply blown away by the elegance, the function, and the sheer beauty of Hallie Zeiselman’s set; Jule Emerson and Annie Ulrich’s costumes were multifaceted and stunning – & every actor looked really good. This is a play full of attractive people dressed really well – unless, in the case of Sumire Doi (Audrey), who is rendered, ahem, sublime in the Romantic sense of the word (go look up 19th century Romanticism if you don’t know what I mean). The music, also, is gorgeous, and enlivens the emotional depth of the world. Carol Christensen’s arrangements are lively and apropos, the singers poised and energetic. Combined with Cheryl’s blocking, a myriad vivid moments stand out, a thousand more blend together into a dreamlike vision. For the visual beauty alone, see this play.

There is great richness here, and a sense that one viewing of the show unearths only a tiny fraction of what is there. Cheryl Faraone has pulled out the threads of melancholy inherent in the narrative and woven them into the arc of the play; rather than rob the show of comedy, however, it renders the characters real. Something beyond the superficial reach of words is going on beneath the surface. I cannot say I even begin to understand what exactly it is, though it is embodied concretely in Molly O’Keefe’s compelling and mysterious portrayal of Jacques, who seems to revel in sadness. Yet it is not depressing. It sparkles amidst the fever of people falling passionately and devotedly in love at first sight.

Bad: I am too biased. I cannot say anything truly bad. The play is long, but it’s Shakespeare so of course it is long. It is dense and even the best actor ever to live could not render Shakespeare completely comprehensible to an audience member who isn’t paying attention, but the show is engaging; if you don’t want to pay attention I don’t understand you. There is a cape which makes no sense at all until the end of the play but that is all I’ll say about it. There were a few clunky moments, but you can nitpick all you like, it’s still a gorgeous piece of theatre.

Broad: As You Like It is beautiful; it is witty; it will make you laugh, it might make you sigh. It brims with delightful characters with lovely voices, lively dizzying movement and soft, faded colors. Shakespeare alone is a good reason to see this show. The craft and artistry of the people who bring Shakespeare to life is an even better one. I know I am gushing, but I cannot help myself. I was blown away by this production; it is well worth your $6.

Contextual Rating:  There are still tickets left for Friday at 8pm, and Saturday at 2 pm & 8 pm in Wright Theatre.

If you already have something planned this afternoon/ evening…

…have fun.  See a different show next week.

…do it.  See this show.

…put it off.  See this show.

…skip it. See As You Like It.

Emily Jacke ’12.5 is a Theatre Major with a focus in Costume Design from Jaffrey, NH. 

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