Colin Brandt & Bea Friesen in As You Like It. Photo: J. Tyler Franklin 

As You Like It

By William Shakespeare
Directed by Charlie Sexton

A review by Kate Barry

Entire contents are copyright © 2023 by Kate Barry. All rights reserved.

A traveler goes deep into the woods in search of something. Shakespeare repeated this trope far too many times to count. But travel as a way of storytelling has appeared in the likes of one of the most popular series of novels from the 20th Century. I am referring of course to “The Lord of the Rings”. In a clever move, director Charlie Sexton has used Tolkien’s world as inspiration and blended the Shire with the forest of Arden for a satisfying As You Like It for Commonwealth Theater Center’s Young American Shakespeare Festival.

While the Tolkien motif doesn’t change the story – there are no appearances from Gollum or the “one ring to rule them all,” – this Middle Earth production features hobbits, humans, and elves alike. Bea Friesen is a loveable hobbit-like Touchstone with a master of wordplay. With large feet, a hat, and a vest, Friesen is the type of fool you would love to share second breakfast with as they ramble and rave about pancakes and mustard. Charlie Sexton steps on stage with the young company to perform as Adam and Hymen. Draped in gray robes and staff in hand, Sexton’s Adam is protective and wise comparable to Gandalf the Gray.

Young lovers find themselves in the Shire of Arden. The story of As You Like It involves betrayals, mistaken identities, and fools overcome by affairs of the heart. Chloe Fitch is a noteworthy Rosalind with spitfire delivery. the Intelligence in her observations while dressed in disguise as a man only fuels Fitch’s Rosalind as she is determined to win the heart of Orlando. Alexander Diakov is a man of action as Orlando, whether he is forced to fight in front of the duke or post letters on trees. Diakov gives a performance of a man determined to find and win the hand of the woman he loves. Diakov and Fitch are a worthy match as the disguised Rosalind gives advice so obvious, that Orlando is nearly seen as silly for not seeing through her scheme.

Strong performances are provided by many the rest of the inhabitants of Arden. Emerson Tuttle presents lingual gymnastics with The Bard’s arguably most famous “All the world’s a stage,” speech. She is a quick-witted and shows a great understanding of the meaty descriptions of age and life. Nolan Davis Brown’s Oliver brings enough foil for Orlando and a soft contrast when falling in love with Celia, played with great energy by Charlotte Meeley. Wilson Young’s Silvius gives the right amount of heartache for Phebe. Audrey Scott slays as the woman who will not give him the time of day yet provides a sufficient change of heart.

By the end of the play, young lovers marry, identities are revealed and past betrayals are forgiven in the name of love. As is typical in a Shakespeare comedy, the conflict leading these hobbits, elves, wizards, and humans into the forest finds resolutions and purpose. Proving once again that “not all who wander are lost” as the saying goes.

As You Like It

May 14, 17, 20, 21 at 7:30 pm

Part of the Young American Shakespeare Festival

Commonwealth Theater Center
1123 Payne Street,
Louisville, KY, 40204

Kate Barry has worked with many different companies around town since graduating in 08 from Bellarmine University. She’s worked with CenterStage, Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions. She used to work in the box office at that little performing arts center on Main Street but now she helps save the planet. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. Her play “Catcher Released” won an honorable mention with the Kentucky Playwrites Workshop. She has written for LEO Weekly and as well. When she is not writing, she teaches yoga. Thanks for reading!