In the third entry in this summer series, director Kathi Ellis returns again to one of Shakespeare’s pastorals to capitalize on the environment at Josephine Sculpture Park. Having mounted Macbeth and The Tempest in this unique outdoor setting, she now ventures into the Forest of Arden to follow Rosalind, Jacques and Touchstone in one of the Bard’s most effective comedies.
Because of the location, it is a requisite in these productions that the work of a sculptor is a key element of the design concept. This year’s 3-D work, by Andrew Marsh, consists of 3 totemic forms, alien trees barren of branches or foliage, the twisted sinews suggestive of human form, with massive shapes like fingers gripping the core. They stand on their own as powerful art, yet are incorporated fully into the staging, with characters climbing up and down frequently. It is the most potent merging of theatre and sculptural forms in this unique series, and a hopeful portent of future collaborations here.
As You Like It’s story of noblemen banished into the wilderness is an examination of true authority in repose, and true love stumbled upon in the glade. Characters are thrown together in the heady idyll of Arden and changed by the experience in varying, but in almost all cases meaningful, ways. The key romance of Rosalind and Orlando utilizes one of the author’s favorite devices – the woman pretending to be a man – and it becomes one of the most vital and provocative of Shakespeare’s gender-bending masquerades, as Rosalind’s “Ganymede” endeavors to fulfill a more aggressive “male” personality and welcomes Orlando’s romantic advances while in that disguise.
The success of any production of this play hangs on an engaging Rosalind, and Erica McClure’s cheeky and sharp-tongued rendition fills the bill. As Orlando, Chris Bartlett is dashing and energetic, although his tendency towards a British accent in early scenes was self-conscious and distracting. But he relaxed into good results as the evening progressed. Keith McGill was a solid clown as Touchstone, contrasting florid movements with a touch of the Catskills in his timing. Clint Gill’s Jacques was perhaps a bit more jolly than others I have seen. Yet the low-level clowning suggests that the character’s famed melancholia is just buried a little deeper than usual.
The staging includes enough physical comedy and delivery just broad enough to overcome (mostly) the natural elements without sacrificing all semblance of nuance. A crowd of about 50 was in attendance for the opening, which strikes me as a good crowd for outdoor theatre on a Thursday night in Lawrenceburg. The sound of insects became part of the sound design, and the thrum of traffic noise from a nearby highway faded into the background, even if the ill-timed appearance of a low-flying helicopter during Jacque’s famous “All the world’s a stage…” was unfortunate. Professionalism carried the production through such moments, and the addition of ground lighting for the sculptures and the stage kept the action illuminated as the final scenes extended beyond the dusk.
Tim & Dair Mathistad
Katie & Chris Haulter
Kathy Todd Chaney
Angie Reed Garner