Sweet and Light
As You Like It

Pittsburgh Public Theater

Christian Conn and Gretchen Egolf
Set designer James Noone sets the tone for the Public Theatre's production of Shakespeare's As You Like It. An interior with a blonde wood deck floor and back wall of three doors is our first impression; the doors later open and, augmented by Kirk Bookman's lush lighting, transform the set for the later forest scenes.

This is a luminous production of one of Shakespeare's lighter comedies. The chosen setting, circa 1907, is revealed quickly through impeccable costumes by Gabriel Berry, as stark colors delineate the characters. As director and designers have provided a harmonious stage, the actors form a dazzling alliance with each other.

The story as told is simple: the mean Duke Frederick has sent his brother the kind Duke Senior into exile in the Forest of Arden (both Dukes are played by Ross Bickell, and he charms as Duke Senior). Rosalind (Gretchen Egolf), daughter of Senior, has also been banished, and she and her cousin Celia (Julia Coffee), daughter of Frederick, soon arrive in the forest—in disguise, Rosalind as a boy named Ganymede and Celia as a poor woman. Also in the forest is Orlando (Christian Conn), driven out by his brother Oliver (David Whalen). Orlando is floating in a spell of love—with Rosalind, whom he had previously encountered very briefly. Of course, Orlando meets "Ganymede," and doesn't recognize his Rosalind. By play's end, out couple is together, as are two other pairs: the shepherd Silvius (Chris Landis) and Phoebe (Theo Allyn), though she falls in love with Ganymede first; Orlando's brother Oliver and Celia. And the kind Senior's dukedom is restored.

The cast is quite accomplished and well guided by directed Ted Pappas. Egolf is a lovely Rosalind and a charming, boyish Ganymede. She and Coffey as the two cousins set a high level of performance, and the rest of the cast is not far behind them.

This work of Shakespeare has more songs than any of his other plays and for this production, Pappas has commissioned a score from Michael Moricz. The four lovely songs provided are performed in a delightful fashion by the cast (in spite of a little forced audience participation).

This As You Like It is the lightest of romps. Things happen quickly and for little reason. The production celebrates that lightness and makes it very easy to take.

As You Like It, through February 19 at the O'Reilly Theater for Pittsburgh Public Theater. For performance and ticket information, call 412-316-1600 or visit www.ppt.org.

Photo: Pittsburgh Public Theater

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-- Ann Miner

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