Last Leaf Production’s As You Like It

Shakespeare’ As You Like It has received mixed reviews throughout its history by many critics. Nevertheless, the play remains as one of Shakespeare’s most performed romantic comedies and holds one of the most iconic Shakespearean speeches, “All the World’s A Stage.” Last Leaf Production’s performance of As You Like It directed by Laura Kessler successfully brings to life Shakespeare’s words onto the stage with performances that effectively execute the comedic moments in the script.

Summary

The play is about Orlando, played by Tiegan Walker, and Rosalind, played by Caitlyn Gilman, building up the courage to tell each other how they feel. However, Orlando’s brother, Oliver wants to execute him to claim all of their father’s inheritance. Meanwhile, Rosalind’s family was exiled by her uncle. Both Orlando and Rosalind were forced to flee to the Forest of Arden. The story then follows how both are brought together through these unfortunate circumstances.

The Comedy and Performances

In a theatrical production, comedy is represented in two ways, physically and verbally. Kessler’s production of As You Like It succeeds in the physical comedy because of the exaggeration and well-choreographed movements done by Jay Rairigh. For example, the actress who played Touchstone, Kira Thorkildsen, received laughter from the audience during her comic relief moments, indicating a successful performance. However, the delivery of the Shakespearean language of the script weakened the verbal comedy. People who are unfamiliar with Shakespeare will not understand the dialogue or speeches as well as someone who is familiar with Shakespeare and this play.

It seems as though the director and the actors took this into account. The gestures and facial expressions of each character enhanced the verbal comedy. It communicated to the audience how each character is feeling even when they are silent or if the audience does not understand the Shakespearean English as clearly. An example of this comes from the character of Celia, played by Marlena McHenry. Even when she is not speaking in the scene, her actions and facial expressions speak for themselves, indicating to the audience how she is feeling about the current situation. The language of action and emotion transcends any language barriers.

That being said, verbal communication remains important. At times, it was hard to hear the actors because of the outdoor setting and lack of microphones. Some words and phrases fell on deaf ears as actors turned and projected their voice in another direction. Nevertheless, the actors clearly enunciated their words and spoke as loudly as they could without unnecessarily shouting. The director also helped this issue by including audience interaction during scenes where the characters are walking through the forest. Having the actors walk beside the audience allows the audience to hear the actors more clearly.

Caitlyn Gilman as Rosalind steals the show with her portrayal of Rosalind as well as her male persona, Ganymede, a disguise she created to hide from her uncle. Her enunciation was perfect and her voice carried throughout the entire stage without the help of a microphone. She remained consistent with her character and was enjoyable to watch each time she performed on stage. The costume designs (done by Kimberly Dorman, Laura Kessler, Alexandra Clark and Debra Speer) clearly show which characters were originally meant to be men and which were women.

Conclusion

As You Like It is a romantic comedy that succeeds in both romance and comedy. It keeps its lighthearted tone throughout the whole play. It contains themes of love, forgiveness and perseverance which everyone will enjoy. Just be sure to sit near the stage and prepare for an hour of an exciting adventure into the Forest of Arden with a cast of interestingly funny characters.

As You Like It plays at Woodinville (21 Acres) at 5pm on August 3, Lake Stevens (Eagle Ridge Park – behind the Senior Center) at 5pm on August 4, and at Bellevue NW Arts Center at 6pm on August 6. For more information and performances, visit https://www.lastleafproductions.org/shakespeare

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