As I mentioned in my last post, we have an adage: hobbies don’t stop just because you’re on vacation. That means, when we go on vacation, that we’re stopping at local yarn and quilting stores, we driving the highways and byways looking for interesting history, and of course, we’re seeing local theatre whenever we can. I also mentioned that we were recently in Klamath Falls, and decided to meander down the road (Oregon 66, to be precise) to Ashland Oregon to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (FB). We made a day of it, seeing two shows. For our second show, we picked — what else — a Shakespeare play: As You Like It. This is one of Shakespeare’s comedies, meaning that everyone gets married by the end of the show.
Here’s the traditional summary of the play, from the Folger Library:
In As You Like It, witty words and romance play out against the disputes of divided pairs of brothers. Orlando’s older brother, Oliver, treats him badly and refuses him his small inheritance from their father’s estate; Oliver schemes instead to have Orlando die in a wrestling match. Meanwhile, Duke Frederick has forced his older brother, Duke Senior, into exile in the Forest of Arden.
Duke Senior’s daughter, Rosalind, and Duke Frederick’s daughter, Celia, meet the victorious Orlando at the wrestling match; Orlando and Rosalind fall in love. Banished by her uncle, Rosalind assumes a male identity and leaves with Celia and their fool, Touchstone. Orlando flees Oliver’s murderous plots.
In the Forest of Arden, Rosalind, in her male disguise, forms a teasing friendship with Orlando. Oliver, searching for Orlando, reforms after Orlando saves his life. Rosalind reveals her identity, triggering several weddings, including her own with Orlando and Celia’s with Oliver. Duke Frederick restores the dukedom to Duke Senior, who leaves the forest with his followers.
But Shakespeare, being in the public domain, invites invention. Director Rosa Joshi (FB) accepted the invitation. In this case, it is a bit of gender-bending. The banished Duke Senior becomes a women. Duke Senior’s attendents — all dressed as women, although some were cast with men. Surprisingly, this change really doesn’t change much: the play works, although there some additional notions that come from a company of women, led by a woman, in the forest. Challenging the patriarchy much? Was this why she was banished?
Modulo that change, Joshi brought a very light touch to the production. This is a good thing. Shakespeare can sometimes be heavy and hard to understand. In this production, the actors were light and playful; joyous and fun. Rosalind and Celia are giggly and excited, and Orlando, Touchstone, and even Oliver are just fun to watch. There’s music and there’s lightness, and you really fall in love with these characters.
In the lead positions were Jessica Ko (FB) Rosalind/Ganymede, daughter of the banished Duke Senior; and Kate Hurster Celia, daughter of Duke Frederick. Ko was spectacular as Rosalind — playful and giddy and serious and devious and just a joy to watch. Hurster matched her measure for measure, but a bit more on the girlish side. They really made the show.
We meet their eventual male counterparts, Román Zaragoza (⭐FB, FB) Orlando de Boys, younger son of Sir Rowland de Boys and Shaun Taylor-Corbett (FB) Oliver de Boys, oldest son of SIr Rowland de Boys, early on, when they are arguing about inheritances, and Orlando is planning to wrestle the champion. Zaragoza presents an engaging personality, both when interacting with Rosalind, interacting with the wrestler, and even when he is interacting with Adam (Tyrone Wilson (⭐FB)), the attendant in the de Boys’ household.
Next we turn to the forest of Arden, to where Rosalind, Celia, and Orlando flees. It is ruled by the banished Duke Senior, played by Rachel Crowl (FB). Here we get our first gender bend: Duke Senior is transformed from male to female (although, during the show, I was a bit confused by the actor, but then later found the explanation). It works, and changes the crew in the forest from a patriarchy to a matriarchy. We’ll get to the crew in a minute.
Some other significant characters/performers are Rex Young (FB) Touchstone, a fool; Will Wilhelm (FB) Aubrey, a country person (also Le Beau, lord attending Duke Frederick; follower of Duke Senior); MacGregor Arney Silvius, a shepherd (also Court Lord, follower of Duke Senior); Lilia Houshmand Phoebe, a shepherdess (also Court Lady, follower of Duke Senior); and Erica Sullivan (FB) Jaques, a noble-woman attending on Duke Senior (also Court Lady). The first two and the second two create couples that eventually get married. Young’s Touchstone and WIlhelm’s Aubrey form one of the gender bending couples; Young is particular fun as the fool. The second couple — Arney and Houshmand — form a pair of shepherds that don’t like each other: Houshmand’s Phoebe loves Rosalind as Ganymede, and dislikes Arney’s Silvius, who is in lust with her. But this is Shakespeare, so it eventually works out, and they have a great performance. Lastly Sullivan’s Jaques gets to play a melancholy fool, who provides some wonderful commentary.
Rounding out the cast are: Kevin Kenerly Duke Frederick; Hannah Fawcett (FB) Lady to Rosalind; James Ryen (⭐FB) Charles, a wrestler to Duke Frederick (also Sir Oliver Martext, a country priest; follower of Duke Senior); Michele Mais (FB) Amiens, a noblewoman attending Duke Senior; Sheila Tousey (⭐FB) Corin, a shepherd (also Court Lady); Grant Luecke (FB) William, a country fellow (also Court Lord, Wrestling Attendant to Charles, follower of Duke Senior). Notable in this group was Mais, who had a lovely singing voice.
There were a large number of understudies whom I’m not listing.
Note that OSF does something I haven’t seen before: Actors are listed in the program with their pronouns.
Turning to the production and creative side: Sara Ryung Clement‘s scenic design was simple (and I was amazed how the same space had Mother Road just a few hours prior — it was totally transformed). A metal superstructure, banners, symbolic trees, and such. It worked for the story. It was supported by the lighting design of Christina Watanabe and the sound design of Pornchanok (Nok) Kanchanabanca (FB), which served to establish place and mood well. Christine Tschirgi‘s costumes worked well and were vaguely of some unidentifiable era. Other production credits: Palmer Hefferan (FB) Composer; Alice Gosti Associate Director of Movement; Alan Armstrong and Amrita Ramanan (FB) Production Dramaturgs; Rebecca Clark Carey Voice and Text Director; U. Jonathan Toppo Fight Director; Jeremy Eisen Production Stage Manager; and D. Christian Bolender and Emily Robinson Assistant Stage Managers.
As You Like It continues at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (FB) through October 26. Tickets are available through the OSF website.
I like to say that I’m a professional audience, and that’s why I like theatre. I don’t have the creativity in me to inhabit other characters, and in general, the writing I do is limited to non-fiction — government documents and policies, highway pages, and reviews like these. I don’t have the ability to take an idea and turn it into characters and stories that might be compelling to an audience. I’m also a long time cybersecurity professional, and attending years of the Hollywood Fringe Festival has convinced me that the medium of the stage could be used to teach about cybersecurity in a way that audiences could learn, without being overwhelmed with technology. The notion I have is to take some broad cybersecurity themes and concepts and translate them into stories that could teach in a compelling way. But I don’t have the expertise to build a story out of the idea. If this is something that might interest you, please let me know. I don’t have funds for a commission or anything like that, but it might be something we could turn into a property beneficial for all.
Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Soraya/VPAC (FB), and the Musical Theatre Guild (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.
The first week of September is open. Live performance starts up the 2nd week, with the Invertigo Dance Company at the Broad Stage (FB). The show supposedly “places the worlds of mathematics, artificial intelligence and cryptography into a vivid, twisted fairy-tale palette.” Fascinating. The third weekend brings Barnum at Musical Theatre Guild (FB), and the fourth weekend brings Blue Man Group at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). We start getting busy in October, starting with The Mystery of Irma Vep at Actors Co-op (FB) and a hold for Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville at Canyon Theatre Guild. The next weekend brings Anastasia – The Musicalat the Hollywood Pantages (FB). The third weekend brings us back to the Kavli for The Music Man at 5 Star Theatricals (FB). October concludes with Mandy Gonzalez at the Soraya/VPAC (FB) and the MoTAS Poker Tournament.
Looking to November, it starts with A Miracle on 34th Street – The Radio Play at Actors Co-op (FB), followed by Big Daddy the Band of 1959 at McCabes (FB) in Santa Monica.. The second weekend brings Summer at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) and The Goodbye Girl at Musical Theatre Guild (FB). November concludes with a hold for Bandstand at Broadway in Thousand Oaks. Somewhere in there we’ll also be fitting in Nottingham Festival and Thumbleweed Festival, if they are happening this year. Yes, there are a lot of open dates in there, but I expect that they will fill in as time goes on.
As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget. Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country!