Oh, to have an Arden to flee to! A magical forest the place you might be who you wish to be and change into who you’d prefer to be, reconnect with estranged household, and discover real love.
It’s at all times felicitous when a play with an outside setting is carried out outdoor (one other Shakespearean forest is at the moment being featured at The Outdated Globe for “A Midsummer Evening’s Dream”).
Now, it’s a double delight — to have an under-the-stars “As You Like It” coupled with the return of New Fortune Theatre.
The acclaimed firm (a revised, upgraded model of Poor Gamers) was on hiatus even earlier than the pandemic shut every little thing down, as a result of co-founders (and longtime companions) Richard Baird, creative director, and Amanda Schaar, government director, couldn’t discover any reasonably priced locations to stage their productions (ever an issue in San Diego).
They’ve situated ultimate spot for his or her newest providing: the amphitheater outdoors the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Level Loma (the indoor venue has been utilized by the San Diego Shakespeare Society, so the stage was already set, so to talk).
The pastoral comedy, regarded as written in about 1599, is a paean to like in its many types: love at first sight, misplaced love, unrequited love, love rebuked, and love disguised. All of Shakespeare’s comedies finish in marriage; this one ends with 4.
The central relationship is a long-delayed romance between Rosalind (Amanda Schaar), the daughter of Duke Senior (Neil McDonald), and Orlando (Steven Lone), the son of Duke Frederick (additionally Neil McDonald).
Frederick has usurped the French duchy the place the piece is about, and exiled his older brother; he permits Rosalind to remain at his court docket solely as a result of she is the BFF of his solely little one, Celia (Rachael VanWormer).
In the meantime, Orlando is persecuted by his older brother, Oliver (Michael Rodriguez), and he’s compelled to flee earlier than his brother kills him.
So, making an attempt to maintain observe right here, there’s a very good and a nasty Duke, and a very good and a nefarious brother.
When Orlando first sees Rosalind, he’s smitten. It’s mutual. Then the merciless Frederick decides to banish her. However Celia gained’t be parted from her, so for security’s sake (ladies alone within the forest, and all), they assume disguises: Rosalind as a younger man, Ganymede, and Celia as “his” poor sister, Aliena. The ladies are accompanied by the court docket idiot, Touchstone (Brian McCann), whereas Orlando is attended by his trustworthy outdated servant, Adam (Danny Campbell.
All of them take off for the Forest of Arden, the place the amiable Duke Senior lives a homeless exile life together with his associates and followers, together with the melancholic Jaques (Richard Baird), ever looking for a clever idiot.
There are numerous and varied nation folks within the forest, and love stays elusive for a very long time, till every little thing will get sorted out — principally by Rosalind (as Ganymede), although she’s induced a few of the issues, too, since Phoebe (Taylor Henderson) falls for Ganymede, and “he” tries to assist the lovesick Orlando by posing as Rosalind and forcing him to woo her, only for observe.
Chances are you’ll recall that, in Shakespeare’s time, the females had been portrayed by younger males. So that you had a younger man enjoying a younger lady who was pretending to be a younger man pretending to be courted as a younger lady.
Even with some tweaks to the textual content (we don’t see Adam die, as an illustration), there are nonetheless darker moments on this manufacturing; numerous longing, some unhappiness and sense of loss, however principally, it’s mild, comedian enjoyable, language-rich and effectively achieved, below the acute path of Dan Hodge, an alumnus of The Outdated Globe/USD Graduate Appearing MFA program.
I had solely two directorial (or had been they sartorial?) questions.
Why is everybody abruptly barefoot on the finish? (as my husband put it, ‘Who would stroll barefoot in a forest?’).
And why, after going to the difficulty to look identical to a younger man, as deliberate (moustache included), does Rosalind abruptly abandon her vest in order that her womanly breasts are clearly noticeable below her tight white shirt? (Now that’s some critical gender-bending).
All through, nevertheless, the performances are delectable.
Schaar is a surprise; humorous and articulate, good and savvy. An ideal match for Lone’s Orlando, much more manly, spirited and spined than the usually mopey, weepy milquetoast some painting him as.
VanWormer’s Celia is adorably paired with Schaar; even their brightly coloured outfits (costumes credited to Baird and Schaar) are a delight. After the forest-change, Celia seems considerably like a colorless woman scout. However her WTF facial expressions, when her buddy is working her wiles, are a hoot. And her matchup with a much-changed Oliver is a nice shock. We don’t need her to overlook out on the ardor of Arden.
McCann’s Touchstone is a marvel of clownish cavorting, bodily and verbal hijinks and hat methods. His high-speed “Seven Levels of Mendacity” is a flawless counterpart to Baird’s extra somber “Seven Ages of Man.” Jaques will get a few of the Bard’s finest strains/speeches right here; Baird additionally nails “All of the world’s a stage.”
McDonald isn’t the one one to play a number of roles, among the many partaking forged of 14, they usually all acquit themselves admirably. Christopher M. Williams’ battle choreography is sort of credibly executed.
Because the attending lord and musician, Amiens, Jaden Guerrero has created a captivating rating, which he sings and performs successfully on varied stringed devices, augmented by pre-recorded parts. With all of the music and dance, although, the operating time feels a tad lengthy. (And the forged has a protracted strategy to go for his or her entrances and exits).
To cap off a few of the bittersweet sentiment of the play, your complete forged ends singing Fashionable English’s 1982 hit, “I’ll Cease the World and Soften with You.”
In the course of the pandemic, the band re-recorded a “From Quarantine” rendition, which went, appropriately, viral.
“It does really feel just like the world is coming to an finish, doesn’t it?” wrote songwriter Robbie Gray. The feedback left a definitive impression that “it cheered [people] up, or it made them really feel higher. It’s fairly clear that it nonetheless resonates right now.”
Now, the place’s that forest?…
- “As You Like It,” from New Fortune Theatre, runs via Aug. 28, outdoor within the amphitheater of Westminster Presbyterian Church, 3598 Talbot St. in Pt. Loma
- Performances are at 7 p.m. Fridays-Sundays.
- Tickets ($10 to $30) can be found at newfortunetheatre.com
- Working time: 2 hrs. 40 min.
Pat Launer, a member of the American Theatre Critics Affiliation, is a long-time San Diego arts author and an Emmy Award-winning theater critic. An archive of her previews and opinions might be discovered at patlauner.com.