A sunny afternoon at Touhy Park hosted Midsommer Flight’s pleasant but childish production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It. The company’s laudable goal of bringing free Shakespeare to the public in local parks around the city is an exciting one, so I settled in on my blanket, and checked out the atmosphere. Set in a grove of leafy trees, the stage was composed mostly of small wooden blocks and a runway that split the audience in two. Surrounding it were park locals on bikes or strollers, and small groups enjoying the sunny day.
Full of interwoven plots, As You Like It centers around Rosalind (Emily Demko), daughter of exiled Duke Senior (James Sparling), staying at the court of her uncle, Duke Frederick (also James Sparling) with her cousin, Celia (Charlee Cotton). When a gentleman from another court, Orlando (Eric Duhon), appears, he immediately falls for Rosalind, angering Frederick, who subsequently banishes Rosalind from court. Celia agrees to leave with Rosalind into the forest of Arden, accompanied by the court fool, Touchstone (Adam Babben). Once in the forest, Rosalind takes on the disguise of a young man, Ganymede, while Celia becomes Aliena, a poor country woman. And that’s just the first ten minutes.
All of these machinations require a deft directorial hand to keep characters distinct and the action moving without sacrificing depth. Director Beth Wolf gives the material a speedy, goofy rhythm with characters running on and off stage, as broad as cartoons, but who they were and what they wanted wasn’t always clear.
While the play itself is often frivolous, the characters must take it seriously; that’s where the comedy is. Emily Demko’s chummy take on Rosalind plays like a nice gal just having a lark, barely containing her laughter when treated as a man. This nudging and winking robs the audience of finding the irony in the situation themselves. We see it again with Eric Duhon’s Orlando, full of self-conscious moaning, but lacking real conviction.
The melancholy soul of the play, Jaques, the speaker of the famous “all the world’s a stage” monologue, played by a perpetually irritated Elizabeth Rentfro, feels the most out of place. She appears, cracks a few jokes, and sings a rousing number; but who she is or how she is connected remains unexplained.
Bright spots that stood out: Charlee Cotton as Celia gives great side eye and brings us in on the ridiculousness. Alexis Randolph as Phebe is a fun, bawdy country wench who lands her jokes with gusto. Adam Gianforte in all of his roles feels grounded and funny with impressive violin skills. And James Sparling, as both dukes, handles the language the best, showing us the anger of Duke Frederick and the gentleness of Duke Senior with aplomb.
Ultimately, the energy and sincerity of the cast was infectious, and by the end of the play, we were all smiling and clapping and the song at the end was quite effective. Everyone looked like they were having fun, and as long as you don’t take it too seriously, you will too. To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “As You Like It”.
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S ” AS YOU LIKE IT”, A FREE OUTDOOR PRESENTATION IN
FOUR CHICAGO PARK LOCATIONS, JULY 9 – AUGUST 28
Flight Returns to Lincoln Park, Rogers
Park’s Touhy Park and Schreiber Park and Lincoln
Square’s Gross Park to Present
Free Shakespeare Productions in 2016, Perfect for the Whole
Family CHICAGO –
Midsommer Flight kicks
off its fifth season this summer with the delightful comedy
“As You Like It”, presented outdoors in
four Chicago parks. Dedicated to presenting high quality,
of Shakespeare’s plays, Midsommer Flight is a proud arts
partner with Chicago Park District.The 2016 summer production of
“As You Like It “runs July 9 through August 28,
Saturdays at 6 P.M.. and Sundays at 2 P.M.
The performance schedule is:·
Lincoln Park: July 9-10 and August
27-28, located on N. Stockton Drive behind the Lincoln
Park Cultural Center at 2045 N. Lincoln Park West
Rogers Park: July 16-17 and 23-24
at Touhy Park, 7348 N. Paulina St., in the southeast grove
along Paulina St.·
Rogers Park: July 30-31
and August 6-7 at Schreiber Park, 1552 W. Schreiber Ave., in
the field at the corner of
Bosworth Ave. and Schreiber Ave. ·
Lincoln Square: August 13-14
and 20-21 performances are at Gross Park,
2708 W. Lawrence Ave., at the north
end of the park along Gunnison St.
All performances will be
presented free of charge (donations gratefully accepted). In
music will be presented 30 minutes prior to each
performance. Music programming
varies with each venue.
Audiences are encouraged to come early and bring a
picnic to enjoy this free
For more information visit www.midsommerflight.com.