How fortunate Chicago theater audiences are to have a world class theater company such as Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier. Here we are given all star productions with great sets, costumes, technical work and of course marvelous performances by some of the most skilled of actors. CST also has direction by artists who know the content of the play they are directing and with their talents are able to make a 2 1/2 hour play a unique and understandable experience. For those of you familiar with this glorious theater, you know what I am speaking about. For those of you who will make your first trip, you are in for a production that will become a lasting memory and will have you hungry for more, as CST presents one of Shakespeare’s great comedies, “As You Like It”.
In many of Shakespeare’s comic plays, we have characters playing other genders to trick their lovers in order to find true love. Most of the characters are seeking their true identities and of course true love and happy endings. His comedies are romantic folly and under the skilled direction of Gary Griffin ( a master of detail and understanding) we get the best! Not only do we get Griffin, but he has assembled a cast of some of Chicago’s finest to bring this production alive. Besides the dual identities in his comedies, The Bard also takes us into the forest and this one is no different. Kevin Depinet’s set is almost a landscape painting with each little detail handled to perfection and Christopher Akerlind’s lighting,Joshua Horvath and Ray Nardelli’s sound along with Mara Blumenfeld’s fantastic costumes are the icing on an already delicious cake. Add the original music by jenny Giering sung by Andrew Mueller ( yet another in Chicago’s famous musical Mueller family) and you have the magic that Shakespeare wrote brought to life with the pure romantic feeling that the script calls for. Pure magic on stage!.
Now, back to the cast; this fine group of actors have appeared in over 100 roles in this theater alone and each character they have played is different in every way. Matt Schwader is outstanding and very athletic as Orlando, the hero of the story, who ends up falling in love with Rosalind ( the enchanting Kate Fry, who is always a delight to watch, on any stage). When Rosalind and Celia ( another fine portrayal by Chaon Cross) run off to the forest, Rosalind pretending o be a young lad and Celia, her sister, the fun begins. She , pretending to be a lad, offers to help Orlando in his wooing of Rosalind ( who is of course, herself) and Orlando’s brother Oliver ( Jeff Parker, who starts off a little slow, but makes his character shine in the second act) falls in love with Celia.
There are , of course, other love stories;Phoebe ( Elizabeth Ledo, who proves that even a small role can be important to a play- she shines) who is being courted by Silvius ( a delightful performance by Steve Haggard), but she is in love with Rosalind’s male persona. Kevin Gudahl, Ross Lehman, Patrick Clear, Matt DeCarlo,Phillip James Brannon,Dennis Kelly and Steve Wojtas are the other returning talents in this production and newcomers Austin Talley,Mark Richard,Andrew Neiman,Nathan Hosner and Hilary Clemens round out this solid cast. While the content of the story deals with banishment and family separations, he true story is about finding one’s self and identity and true love. This production does this as stated earlier. to perfection!
“As You Like It” will continue at CST on Navy Pier through March 6th with performances . To see the schedule of performances visit www.chicagoshakes.com
Tickets range from $44-$75 and can be purchased at the box office, by phone at 312-595-5600 or online at www.chicagoshakes.com
Navy Pier is located at 800 East Grand Ave and can be reached by bus or trolley and there is plenty of indoor parking ( bring your parking ticket to theater for validation and you only pay $10)