Friday October 20th 2017

“As You Like It” reviewed by Carol Moore

Highly Recommended **** I always look forward to the evenings I spend watching First Folio’s Shakespeare under the stars.  Somehow, that atmosphere – an outdoor stage set in the lush Mayslake Peabody Estate – transports me into Shakespeare’s world.  First Folio’s delightfully modern production of Shakespeare’s complicated comedy, “As You Like It”, brings the lovers of Arden Forest to life.  By the way, watching a pair of teen-aged girls shrieking and jumping about in excitement, demonstrates that Shakespeare doesn’t have to be heavy going.  4 BIG Spotlights

Just a note – In years past, I’ve wondered how First Folio handles weather issues.  This summer, I found out.  During Act I, I could see lightning in the distance, and it got closer and closer.  At intermission, a young woman from the First Folio staff took the stage to announce that they were shutting down the production because a storm was on the way.  She encouraged everyone to quickly pack up so they could get home safely.  As people left, they were given rain checks.  Meanwhile, the stage crew were up on ladders covering the lights – battening the hatches, you might say.  As I was leaving, Belinda Bremner, who plays Duke Sr., personally apologized to me for not finishing the show.  So, I saw Act I twice, and it was just as good the second time around.

Those teen-aged girls I mentioned earlier are cousins Rosalind (Leslie Ann Sheppard) and Celia (Vahista Vafadari).  The girls are best friends as well as cousins.  Celia’s father, Duke Frederick (Philip Winston), wrested the Duchy from his predecessor/older sibling Duke Sr. (Brenmer).  Even though Rosalind is Duke Sr.’s daughter, he allowed her to stay at court as a companion to Celia.  Unfortunately for Celia, her paranoid uncle is becoming suspicious of her.

When Orlando de Boys (Nicholas Harazin), tired of being less than a servant, confronts his older brother, Oliver (Luke Daigle) throws him – and their loyal servant, Adam (Jim Morley) – out.  Orlando goes off to court to wrestle in the Duke’s contest.  When he and Rosalind spot each other, it’s love at first sight.  Back in their room, Rosalind and Celia are excited (the above-mentioned shrieking and jumping) to watch Orlando wrestle.   The Duke, on the other hand, is enraged when Orlando beats his champion, Charles (Evan Michalic); but totally loses it when he learns that Orlando is the son of his enemy.

When Duke Frederick banishes Rosalind, Celia decides to go too.  Rosalind puts on men’s clothing and becomes Ganymede, while Celia disguises herself as Ganymede’s sister, Aliena.   The fool, blue-haired Touchstone (Courtney Abbott), goes with them into exile.  They buy a cottage from an old shepherd, Corin (Matthew Moore).

Duke Sr., accompanied by a few courtiers, has put together a home of sorts in Arden Forest.  One of the courtiers, the melancholy Jacques (Kevin McKillip) broods over absolutely everything.  When a desperate young man (Orlando) asks for food, the Duke recognizes him as the son of a dear friend and joyfully offers hospitality.

McKillip is absolutely brilliant as he entertains the Duke with a monologue –  “All  the world’s a stage …”  He goes on to describe the “seven ages” in a man’s life, using his wadded-up shirt to represent an infant.

My friend Crista and I were happy with our snacks and soda, which she brought in an insulated backpack.  All around us, we saw people who’d grouped their chairs around portable tables festooned with candles, wine in proper glasses and gourmet foods!

“As You Like It” runs through August 20th on First Folio’s outdoor stage on the grounds of the Mayslake Peabody Estate, 1717 W. 31st Street (31st & Rt. 83), Oakbrook

.  Running time is 2 hours, 25 minutes, with one intermission.

Performances are Wednesdays through Sundays at 8:15 pm.

Tickets range from $29-$39.  Parking is free.  If you forget your chairs or your blanket, don’t worry, First Folio offers both chairs and blankets for rent.  FYI (630) 986-8067 or www.firstfolio.org.

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “As You Like It”.

 

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