Saturday, August 24, 2013

Independent Shakespeare Co.’s 2013 Production of As You Like It

The Independent Shakespeare Company always impresses me. On August 23, I went to see the group’s production of As You Like It. It was a completely enjoyable experience, and I was laughing out loud through quite a lot of it. When this play is done right, it is a lot of fun. And The Independent Shakespeare Company does it right. Sure, there are a couple of inherent weaknesses in the play, mainly Duke Frederick’s sudden and convenient religious conversion at the end. But that’s of little matter, and by the time it happens, we’re ready to accept it. The entire cast is strong, but the two stand-outs for me are Melissa Chalsma as Rosalind and Luis Galindo as Jacques. Sean Pritchett also does a wonderful job as Orlando. Joseph Culliton plays both Duke Frederick and the banished Duke Senior, calling for a few very quick changes, and providing a few laughs in the process – mostly astonished laughter at how quickly he was able to change.

They set up the sort of sibling rivalry between Orlando and Oliver right away, but having Oliver kick over a bucket of apples while Orlando is sweeping up. That leads directly to Orlando’s opening speech to Adam.  On “my education,” he indicates his broom.

The production uses somewhat contemporary clothing. For example, the wrestler wears a grey hooded sweatshirt with a zipper down the front. Mixed with the modern clothing are several timeless pieces. Rosalind and Celia are both in red dresses when we first meet them. Touchstone wears a traditional jester hat.

Orlando is masked for his wrestling match with just a strip of cloth across his face, but with holes for the eyes, of course. Charles wears a gold wrestling costume with a silver lightning bolt. At the beginning of each round, men flock around the wrestlers, so we actually see very little of the match. This totally works, however, and is done in such a way that is quite funny.

Le Beau’s line is changed in this production when Orlando asks him which girl is the Duke’s daughter. He says “the brunette is his daughter,” rather than “the taller is his daughter.”

On Rosalind’s “my child’s father,” she picks up Orlando’s shirt. She then uses it when she gets the idea of dressing as a man (though she doesn’t actually wear it when dressed as Ganymede). The cast is able to often make good use out of certain wardrobe pieces. Particularly David Melville as Touchstone who, when threatening William, turns his fool’s cap into two horns to frighten him. There’s more play a bit later with Touchstone’s hat with Audrey. And when Jacques says that he wants a motley coat, he takes off his jacket and turns it inside out, and puts it back on.

There are a few songs in this production, and the singer and instruments are actually miked, so everything is audible. There is some silliness, like a running gag of Touchstone getting poo on his shoe out in the country. He breaks out of the text for a moment and wipes it with a tissue, which he then hands to an audience member. The second time, he hands it to the same audience member. I’ve always had mixed feelings about straying from the text. But of course that stuff always gets a laugh from many of the audience members. For example, Touchstone, in explaining “civit” to the shepherd (and to the audience), says, “Google it.” He later makes a joke about the bad quartos, which actually was quite funny.

As I said, Luis Galindo does a great job as Jacques. When he delivers the famous speech, he says, “All the world’s a stage” as if it just occurred to him, which is great. He really gave new life to this famous speech. And at the end, on “sans everything,” he points sadly at Adam, who is carried in at that moment. It’s perfect and heartbreaking.

The play has one intermission, which comes after Orlando agrees to Rosalind’s plan to woo her (Act III Scene ii). The second act begins with Act III Scene iii, the scene with Touchstone and Audrey, with Jacques delivering his lines from the audience.

If you haven’t yet seen this production, you have two more chances – August 29th and September 1st. I highly recommend attending one of those performances if it is at possible for you to do so.

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