by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
Shakespeare is back in Theatre Jacksonville’s Summer Classic, after an absence of several years while TJ presented some other interesting classic choices to appreciative audiences. The Classic precedes the season opener and is offered at special ticket pricing of $15.00 for the general public and $10.00 for students and TJ season subscribers.
“As You Like It” is one of the Bard’s comedies that has not been done for a long time in this area and is a wonderful way to end the summer on a fun note.
Done in period costume, it is the story of the lovely Rosalind (MILES PARA), who is forced by family conflicts to flee with her entourage to seek refuge in the Forest of Aden. Disguising herself (fetchingly convincingly) as a boy, Rosalind then proceeds to confuse the heck out of her would-be love interest Orlando (CO’RELOUS BRYANT). The play moves on to the dramatic problems of two sets of rival brothers, Duke Frederick (JASON WOODS) and Duke Senior (SETH LANGNER) and Orlando and Oliver(MICHAEL BEAMAN) and the obstacles they present to the happiness of several couples. This simple summary of the plot is more fully explained in the study guide/ program you will receive when you see the play. You should devote a good twenty minutes to the program notes before the curtain rises to read the synopsis and other helpful background information, along with the excellent biographies of the cast and production team.
All performances are at 2032 San Marco Boulevard in Jacksonville, through September 7. Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm, Thursdays at 7:30pm, and Sundays at 2:00pm. Call 904-396-4425 for reservations.
This is one of Shakespeare’s most frequently produced plays as it has all those bits of business we have come to associate with the Bard: wit and humor, cross-dressing, poems and love letters, slapstick, passion, and one of Shakespeare’s most famous speeches “All the World’s a Stage,” recited by the melancholy man himself, Jacques (GEOFFREY KING).
The play is directed by LAURA RIPPEL, who is the Theatre Director at the Bolles School and has been on the faculty for twelve years. She has taken the last two summers to graciously share her marvelous directing talents with community theatre fans. Last year she directed the very popular “Is He Dead”. The director’s staging is as meticulous as it is resourceful, creating an elaborate choreography of movement that is a visual delight. Ms. Rippel’s staging also features a crackling ensemble of delightful and entertaining characters who project so well that you will hear every single word and that is, of course, as you like it.
KARL ROGERS, as Adam, servant to Orlando, is a veteran of many local Shakespearean productions. Playing Celia, Rosalind’s cousin and best and faithful friend, is RAKIA JACLAR MAY, whom we saw in the singing role of Ti Moune in ABET’s “Once Upon This Island.” The versatile AL EMERICK is Touchstone, the court clown, who has somewhat reluctantly agreed to accompany the ladies to the forest. This character provides much of the humor of the play, and though he seems to be intelligent, one wonders as he begins to court Audrey, a simpleminded (although quite lovely) goatherd. The role is played by TRACY OLIN, who also found the time to design all the excellent costumes for this large cast. Tracy was assisted in construction by ROBIN BRUCE, JO SWALLOW and THOMAS TRAUGER, with LAURA YOUNG as head of the costume crew.
KIRSTEN YATES makes her debut at Theatre Jacksonville, appearing in two roles. She displays her trained speaking and singing voice as the servant Amiens, then doubles back to close the show as Hymen, the Goddess of Marriage.
THOMAS TRAUGER appears as Charles, the court’s professional grappler, who is unexpectedly defeated by Orlando in a no holds barred wrestling match, which Trauger choreographed. He also doubles back, dons a two foot beard, and becomes Sir Oliver Martext, an aged man of the cloth.
NEAL THORBURN, another veteran of a number of Shakespeare plays, appears in the role of Corin, a shepherd who sells a cottage to Rosalind and Sylvia. MATT TOMPKINS, fresh from a role in “The Pittman Painters” at The 5 & Dime, give a humorous portrayal of Silvius, deliriously in love with a Phebe, a disdainful shepherdess played by MAY LEE, a senior at Bolles School, and the youngest member of the cast. Rounding out the cast are DAVID RAINES, as William, a misguided country boy who also pursues Audrey, and Le Beau, a member of the Duke’s court played by JONATHON YATES.
In the leading roles of Orlando and Rosalind, Mr. Co’Relous and Ms. Para have excellent chemistry. Both bring elastic mugging to the scenes where she pretends to be the male Ganymede who is teaching Orlando to woo Rosalind properly.
Director Rippel and DAVID LYNN DAWSON, Scenic/Lighting Designer and Technical Director have worked minimalist magic with this set. There is absolutely no furniture, although Property Master Laura Young has a few carry on props for the cast. The bare stage has two low steps in the front that are sometimes used as places to sit. The white wall at the back of the set is bathed in rich color at times; when the action moves to the forest, the wall is lit at the bottom with green for the forest and blue for the sky. If you look closely you will see shadows of tree limbs with leaves, created by projected templates, which are known in theatre as gobos or cookies. KATIE GILE, making her debut as a Stage Manager, kept things moving to perfection in this new theatre endeavor.
The play ends with a group wedding party, and the entire company dances an exuberant jig. We will let you discover who chooses who as all is well that ends well.
AS YOU LIKE IT
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM