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All The World’s A Stage … and the Players: As You Like It at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

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As You Like It (2019): Román Zaragoza (Orlando de Boys), Kevin Kenerly (Duke Frederic, center), James Ryen (Charles), Ensemble. Photo: Jenny Graham.

Love Shakespeare for his knotted plots of romance? Pair that with a good old case of hidden identity? Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s As You Like It is your cup of tea.

Opening March 8 in the Angus Bowman Theater to a full house, the intimate atmosphere allowed the audience to feel as though they were part of the performance.  

Not long after Duke Senior (Rachel Crowl) is banished from Court by her brother, Duke Frederick (Kevin Kenerly), Rosalind (Jessica Ko), Senior’s daughter finds herself struck with the same fate. She is forced to leave her home just after she’s met Orlando (Román Zaragoza), a love at first sight kind of deal. Yet her cousin, Celia (Kate Hurster), Frederick’s daughter, refuses to be left in Court without her dear Rosalind and so the pair of them; Rosalind disguised as a man (Ganymede) and Celia as a poor girl (Aliena) set out to find Duke Senior in the Forest of Arden. Meeting many colorful characters throughout their journey, the most electrifying scene is when Rosalind crosses paths in the forest with none other than Orlando, although he does not recognize her in her disguise. Jessica Ko and Román Zaragoza really come alive in the second half, which starts with a bang as soon as the house lights go down. Overdramatized as it may be, this works fabulously as hysterical hijinks ensue, with more love triangles than a geodesic dome.

From the beginning, Rosalind/Ganymede and Celia/Aliena steal the stage with their show stopping relationship full of witty banter and playfulness. Celia’s boisterously fun and natural performance really connected with the audience. They loved to love her.

As You Like It is directed by Rosa Joshi, a self-proclaimed unromantic. However that is very unapparent in her adaptation of this Shakespearean comedy as a giddy love develops between Orlando and his Rosalind. Although the story was a bit slow to develop after the initial narration of Duke Senior’s banishment and a quick introduction to the main players, the physical comedy kicked in almost immediately to remedy that. A physicalness which the actors maintain successfully throughout and is blatant when Orlando finds himself in a wrestling match. That scene plays out poetically almost as if the contenders were dancing in slow motion, with the audience swaying right alongside. The entire stage was utilized brilliantly to express the depths of each characters’ interactions.

Sara Ryung Clement did a fantastic job creating a whimsical forest, with the chimes, poles to frolic around and of course Orlando’s love poems to Rosalind strung high between the trees. The costuming and set design although simple, were both paramount allowing for the dialogue and choreography to have a space to bloom. Which they did just that.

The dialogue does not fall short of a Shakespearean comedy, with witty quips, one liners, and perfectly delivered analogies. The humor was captured as the players stated the obvious while keeping their delivery as dead pan as possible. No one had to reach for the laugh, it came naturally which is a nod to the work each performer has put into developing their character.

As You Like It is clever, honest and simply fun. It is one performance that will have you in stitches from Act One to Curtain Call, which was fully reciprocated with a standing ovation of 600 audience members’ applause.

As You Like It
1:30 and 8 pm, through October 26
Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Angus Bowman Theater, 15 S. Pioneer Street, Ashland
$34 – $155.

 

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