When putting on a Shakespeare play in modern times, it’s important to approach it in a way that can appeal to a modern audience (at this point, I take a puff of my pipe). But seriously, in my time as a theater student and then amateur reviewer I’ve witnessed some interesting takes on Shakespeare. I’ve seen a Graphic Novel-esque approach to Hamlet, I’ve seen a version of Julius Caesar meant to parody Sarah Palin, I’ve seen PICT’s post-barren wasteland of Macbeth, and way back when I moved here I saw As You Like It at the Public Theater. Some of these approaches worked really well, while others…not so much (had I only been blogging in college, the stuff I could say about old “2B”.) But the Point Park Conservatory is putting on As You Like It and, since I’m already familiar with the play, I thought I’d check it out and see their approach.
The Conservatory offers a smaller production in their intimate studio theater, which I was excited to be in for the first time. Lindsay Mayer’s set is simple and beautiful, a woodsy motif of brown and green. Throughout the show projections (by Jessi Sedon-Essad) of trees and animals are shone on the set to create a nice storybook feeling. The opening montage of plants “growing” over the set gives the Forest of Arden a magical sense; this is a place where people can fall in love in mere seconds and everyone’s always running. The lighting (Andrew David Ostrowski) completes the picture with some nice touches, like the many glass bottles that hang from the ceiling, some of which act as chandeliers.
The costume design (Michael Montgomery) also takes a fun approach. At the start of the play all our characters are in their “fancy” attire, which basically consists of suits, nice dresses, and lots of ruffled collars. When our heroes escape into the forest and meet the others that live there we take on more of an artist/hipster vibe. There are plenty of knit caps, baggy sweaters, and a pair of over-sized glasses that just make you think “Oh these people are fun.” Rosalind (Jennifer Arfsten) and Celia (Hannah Morris) get some fabulous dresses when they are dressing rank-appropriate, while the fool Touchstone (Conner Gillooly) rocks some looks that would fit in nicely at a Batman villain convention (that’s a big compliment from me).
Gillooly has a rapid-fire joke style that pays off really well when it comes to keeping the audience laughing, stealing the show at times (like I think “fools” were meant to do). Ms. Arfsten plays a very witty and charismatic Rosalind, and shares many great scenes with Ms. Morris’s Celia. In keeping with the gender-bending theme of the play, the role of the melancholy Jacques is here re-imagined as a sort of theatrical female (Toree Alexandre) with a unique outlook on life. Ms. Alexandre does a fine job, but I sort of missed the dour cynicism a melancholy man (or woman) would have provided against a stage full of doe-eyed optimists.
Overall Point Park delivers a very good production of As You Like It. The tech-work is wonderful, the cast all put in good performances, and even the music is impressive. Near the end Touchstone leads the group in an acapella foot-stomping version of “It Was a Lover and his Lass” and earlier in the play a girl dressed like Blossom treats Jacques to a song she croons while strumming a ukelele. It’s cute. It’s all cute. Want some cute Shakespeare? Go check it out.
As You Like It
Presented by Point Park Conservatory Theatre Company
Directed by John Amplas
Written by William Shakespeare
Designed by Lindsay Mayer (scenery), Michael Montgomery (costumes), Andrew David Ostrowski (Lighting), Steve Shapiro (sound), Jessi Sedon-Essad (projections)
Starring Jennifer Arfsten (Rosalind), Hannah Morris (Celia), Dominique Brock (Phoebe), Stanley Graham (Duke Senior), Angela D’Occhio (Audrey), Katherine Rogers (Amien/Hyman/Forrester), Perris Drew (Duke Frederick), Conner Gillooly (Touchstone), Ashton Guthrie (Corin/Charles), Toree Alexandre (Jacques), Mike Nicosia (Orlando), Tal Kroser (Oliver), Kyle Coughlin (Adam), Ricky Gee (Silvius), Neiman Outlen (Le Beau/Oliver Martext), Matt Calvert (Dennis/William).
The show runs until Nov 23rd. Tickets can be purchased here.
Special thanks to the Pittsburgh Playhouse for two complimentary press tickets. Photos by Jeff Swenson
Performance Date: November 8, 2014