Shakespeare’s 1599 comedy “As You Like It,” in many aspects, follows the Bard’s comedy formula. We start with a royal family torn apart by past injustice and by way of a cross-dressing heroine, arrive at a bunch of marriages.
However, the treatment that “As You Like It” receives from director Jonathan Michaelsen is far from formulaic. Entering the Wells-Metz Theatre, one gets the impression that a rave has occurred. Exiting is a much different story.
“As You Like It” opens the 2015 season of Indiana Festival Theatre. Running in repertory with an adaptation of Booth Tarkington’s “The Gentleman From Indiana,” the show combines the talents of professional actors and students of the IU Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance.
Before the play begins, Duke Senior has his power usurped by his younger brother, Duke Frederick. Duke Senior is exiled to the Forest of Arden, where he finds contentment in simple living.
Duke Senior’s daughter, Rosalind, remains in the court of Duke Frederick, because of her closeness to her cousin Celia (Frederick’s only offspring).
Oliver and Orlando are two brothers whose father, Sir Roland de Boys, recently died, leaving Oliver (the elder) in charge. Oliver, out of spite for his younger brother, refuses to provide Orlando with the education and accommodations he feels entitled to.
Once Rosalind falls in love with Orlando, the action moves to the Forest of Arden. Rosalind and Celia flee Frederick’s court with his fool, Touchstone, in tow.
Amanda Catania leads energetically as Rosalind, Shakespeare’s largest female role. Catania nicely captures the wit and ingenuity of the character.
Henry Woronicz gives a delightful performance as Touchstone. His waggish delivery reminds one of Robin Williams.
Both Duke Frederick and Duke Senior are portrayed deftly by David Kortemeier. Kortemeier’s exaggerated icy demeanor as Frederick is a sharp contrast to his easygoing benevolence as Senior.
The other pair of brothers, Oliver and Orlando, is intensely played by John Putz and Zachary Spicer.
Spicer and Sam Barkeley (Charles) have a ruthless wrestling match in the first act, choreographed masterfully by Rob Johansen.
Some of Shakespeare’s best-known text comes from “As You Like It,” and much of it is spoken by Jaques, a lord attending on Duke Senior. Ian Martin enacts this role engrossingly. His famous “All the world’s a stage” speech captivates.
Linda Pisano’s costume design is exquisite. Pisano’s bold choices and eye for detail contribute remarkably to the visual transformation that takes place in “As You Like It.”
Credit is also due to Reuben Lucas’s set, which functions as a wrestling ring and a lush woodland. Matthew Wofford’s lighting and Jack Keefer’s sound design complete the shifting atmospheres of the production.
Indiana Festival Theatre’s “As You Like It” is a promising bet for Shakespeare lovers, and may even convert some Shakespeare skeptics.
If you go
WHO: Indiana Festival Theatre.
WHAT: “As You Like It” by William Shakespeare.
WHERE: Wells-Metz Theatre in the Lee Norvelle Center, 275 N. Jordan Ave.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. July 14, 16, 18, 22, 24; 2 p.m. July 19 and 25.
TICKETS: $15-25. Visit theatre.indiana.edu or call 812-855-1103.
Reprinted with permission from The Herald Times. View the original review here.