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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    As You Like It

    For those in love with William Shakespeare, the Staller Center for the Arts’ adaptation of ‘As You Like It’ was a creative exercise. For those who are deaf to the Elizabethan charm of this play, it was an introduction to a world of deception and power play, and, most importantly, love in a time of hatred. As disjointed as the play is (because of the multitude of characters and couples), it flows with near-perfect coherence.

    For starters, ‘As You Like It’ is a play of contradictions – the main actor, Rosalind (played by Louisa Johnson) is a woman pretending to be a man in the Forest of Arden. The most comic actor is a melancholic fellow by the name of Jacques (pronouced Ja-kveez). And it takes place in the somber, dark setting of a royal court, which then shifts to a light-hearted joyous adventure in a humble forest.

    The play begins with the entrance of the throne usurper, Duke Frederick (Ricardo Ferreiro), who once-upon-a-time had banished his older brother, Duke Senior (Brian Avery), to the forest of Arden. Frederick‘s paranoia leads him to banish his older brother’s daughter, Rosalind. But his own daughter, Celia (Jillian Cross) chooses to leave with her. Both ladies travel in disguise, Rosalind cross-dressing as a man and Celia as her sister, and they are accompanied by their court fool, Touchstone (Robert Colpitts).

    At the same time, Orlando (David Blondell) flees from the tyrannical household of his older brother Oliver (Joshua Schubart), accompanied by his faithful servant Adam (Jeremy Black). Earlier that afternoon, Orlando and Rosalind had met and instantly fell in love with each other. Coincidence (which always fuels Shakespeare’s comedies) takes over and both take refuge in the same forest and meet again. But this time, the cross-dressed Rosalind instructs Orlando on how to woo her.

    The major problem with a play of this scale is that there are too many characters to follow with an enjoyable understanding. Fortunately, Valeri Lantz-Gefroh’s production nearly eliminates this problem. There is some digression from the love stories of the couples – Orlando and Rosalind, Touchstone and Audrey (Guiseppina Vitetta), Phebe (Kimberly Furano/Sheilagh O’Loughlin) and Silvius (Kevin Villaran) – for a glimpse of the court in the city and the forest. But the production is strong and uniform and the transitions are strikingly smooth, with musical accompaniment.

    The visual effects were the strongest aspect, tying together every loose end imaginable, from the actors to the set. The stark city court with only the Duke’s throne and his black costume as the only props seemed cold and confined. In juxtaposition, the forest seemed warm and open, with colorful costumes (as always beautifully done by Peggy Morin) and an interesting array of trees (made from green-colored fences) amidst a wooden ensemble of steps.

    What was disappointing in terms of stage direction was the lighting, designed by Shaun Fillion. Although it was appropriately dim for most of the play, there were acts that badly needed lighting. Instances when actors entered the stage from behind the audience, such as when Oliver first meets the cross-dressed Rosalind and falls in love with Celia, cast the actors in half-shadows. Although this might have been an effective technique for a secret lover’s meeting, this was certainly not the case here.

    As for the acting, there is very to complain about. Almost all the actors transformed their one-dimensional characters into real people as the play progressed. Probably because it was the first night of the play, there was some line jumbling, but it was evident from the very first scene that the play’s intensity and passion would keep the audience fixed. Oliver’s hatred and evil sneer seemed a little over the top, but it contrasted so well with Orlando‘s demure love-stricken self that it seemed well-placed.

    It is hard to compress a Shakespeare play into an approximately 120-minute production, let alone comprehend it. The audience was a diverse set, but mostly composed of students (a first for Staller productions). Perhaps it was the initial dark mood, or the somewhat unnecessarily lengthened first act that was the reason some audience members left. But what those few individuals missed was priceless. In the second act, Touchstone was genuinely amusing with a frantic energy that gained ovations and uncontrollable laughter from the audience. His 150 ways of killing William was perhaps the most well-received segment of the play. The role was played by Colpitts, who was seen as Algernon in last year’s conservatory classic, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest.’

    It seems that Colpitts has a knack for playing the comedian and, despite the fact that he has played secondary roles, he has outdone the main actor. But as tempting as it is to say that he was the star of ‘As You Like It,’ the real spotlight was on Rosalind. Johnson, who played her, balanced her presentation of both sexes with equal grace and, well, macho-ness.

    What was left out was a literal deus ex machina to tie the ending. The play ended with an excessive dance and an epilogue by Rosalind. While the epilogue left a sweet note, the dance was weakened by an uninspiring choreography on the part of Kelyn Petrie. On the other hand, the fight choreography by Ferreiro was executed realistically on a small stage and was a delight to watch.

    Overall, the play did not live up to the same hype as last year’s Conservatory Classic, partly because it was Shakespeare. Yet, it must be commended for bringing together a crowd, mostly consisting of students, and educating and entertaining an audience without compromising the language or plot of the play. With a strong cast and a well-thought setting, the play carried splendidly.

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