Arts & Culture

‘As You Like It’ production updates old world comedy

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, November 2, 2012

William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” could easily be a romantic comedy on television today – rustic setting and Old English prose aside, the play’s convoluted love polygons and musical accompaniment seem only a stone’s throw from modern favorites like “Glee.” It’s in that spirit of modern adaptation that the second-year class of the Brown University/Trinity Rep MFA program takes the stage this weekend.
The production, viewed at Wednesday’s dress rehearsal, did not disappoint, starting off with a literal bang as Orlando (Ben Grills MFA ’14) launched the play with his opening salvo against scheming older brother Oliver (Greg Fallick MFA ’14). The energy exhibited at the beginning propels the play throughout, from the wordplay-heavy monologues of exiled noblewoman Rosalind (Bridget Saracino MFA ’14) to her journey with fellow exiles Celia (Nikki Massoud MFA ’14) and Touchstone (Ted Moller MFA ’14) into the Forest of Arden.
The actors’ energized performances contrast the sparse physical set. Gauzy curtains and a chiffon canopy diffusing light onto the bare floorboards sets the dreamlike atmosphere of Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy and lets each scene in the play blend seamlessly into the next.
The production taps often into Shakespeare’s textual blurring of reality and fiction in true Trinity fashion, using ornate padded couches on the edge of the stage as a “permeable” boundary between the audience and the actors, Saracino said. Actors often venture into the bleachers during the production, notably when Orlando “pinned” love letters for Rosalind to audience members pretending to be trees.
“It’s fun, it’s scary because you’re actually talking right to someone you don’t know,” Saracino added. “You’re sitting in someone’s lap who you don’t know.”
The play’s themes of rebellion, growing up and love also resonate today.
“Everyone in this play is either an authority figure or a rebel,” Massoud said. “(Celia and Rosalind) are rebels too, in their own way.”
The play also speaks to young people, she said.
“These people have to leave their homes and go out into the world and find a way achieve what they want,” she said. “None of this is fake. This is real. There is something about all these people going to the woods, and, even in the midst of playing these games, they’re finding out who they are, really, and who their real friends are.”
But like all happy Shakespeare plays, the guy gets the girl – or the other way around.
“These two are some of the smartest women in canon,” Saracino said. “They’re smarter, they’re faster – she’s teaching him.”
Though the characters are initially “cynical,” Saracino emphasized the play’s depiction of “love in its many forms.”
“She’s not all damsel-y and flowery. She’s strong,” Saracino said of Rosalind. “She learns to grow into saying what she wants to say.”
Now that’s the kind of resolution you won’t get on “Glee.” “As You Like It” runs through Nov. 4 at the Pell Chafee Performance Center.

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