November 1, 2009

Review: As You Like It

On Halloween I attended a performance of Shakespeare's "As You Like It," courtesy of the Dartmouth Rude Mechanicals, a Shakespeare company comprised of Dartmouth students. I went because it was Shakespeare; I stayed because it was among the best productions I've ever seen.

Willa Johann '10 was stellar as Rosalind, the witty and intelligent heroine of the Shakespearean comedy. She handled the task of disguising herself as Ganymede very well. It is difficult to act Shakespeare and more difficult still to act a Shakespearean female character acting like a Shakespearean male character- but was more than up to the challenge. She fully inhabited the character of Rosalind; even the more-than-complicated love quadrangles and disguises did not seem to present a problem for her. Bravo!

Performing opposite Willa as Orlando was a plucky and likeable young man who has a distinct affinity for comedy. He garnished his presentation of Orlando with humorous gestures and blushes reminiscent of '90s teenage romantic comedies (...or maybe that's just because he resembles John Cusack). He worked in his interpretation of the part amazingly well and still managed to honor Shakespeare with his performance.

Another beautiful Shakespearean player also graced the stage with her presence as Celia, cousin to Rosalind. Her pointed remarks and asides were beautifully mastered and much appreciated by the audience. The smaller characters also performed very nicely in a few parts, most notably that of Adam, servant to Orlando. The creaking joints were a nice touch.

And who could forget Touchstone? The actor did a remarkable job of emulating the classic and humorously not-very-classy yet ever wise fool. His growls and scowls were ever-convincing; his grins and laughs, contagious as they were meant to be.

Too, the dual roles, that of the Duke and that of his banished brother, the ex-Duke, were performed admirably. The contrast between the two brothers was made beautifully evident by the fact that they were performed by the same actor, and an eminent actor at that.

Characters with fewer appearances still made their time on stage very worthwhile: the actors who played Pheobe, Silvius, the shepherd, and Orlando's older brother all acted their parts fully and with true intention.

The scenery was minimal and mostly made up of one chalk drawing on the blackboard of Dartmouth Hall 105; a few boxes served as rocks and tables. It was not an extensive set by any means; but the characters inhabited the stage so well that it was easy to imagine the Forest of Arden or the Duke's grand home.

Overall, the performance was a great success, the actors well-versed, the humor well-expressed: in short, I would wholeheartedly recommend attending the Rude Mechanicals' next production.

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