As You Like It
Shakespeare's comedy of mistaken identities and misplaced affections begins with murderous plots and family betrayal. Duke Frederick has usurped power from his brother, Duke Senior, and banishes him and his daughter Rosalind; Oliver withholds the inheritance from his brother Orlando, refuses him the gentleman's lifestyle he deserves, and secretly plots to kill him. The central action takes place in the Forest of Arden, where Orlando flees to escape his brother, Rosalind journeys upon being banished, and Duke Senior lives with his supporters in exile. Confusion, redemption, and romance (complete with bad poetry) follow.
The minimalistic set consists primarily of a few collapsible "trees" (pillars of fabric suspended from the ceiling) and reflective material resembling shiny silver ribbon covering a mirrored wall (the performance space is a former dance studio). This design contributes to an overall fanciful feeling, along with Miranda Kau Giurleo's steampunk-esque costuming for scenes that take place in the Duke's courtlots of chains, corsets, and black lacewhich also provides an effective contrast to the softer colors and silhouettes characters don in the Forest of Arden.
Brooke Hardman plays Rosalind, skillfully oscillating between Rosalind's two primary and interlocked dispositions: a clever, independent, and strong-headed woman and a giddy, infatuated young lover. Much of the energy and humor in Hardman's performance comes from her ability to display and quickly bounce between nuanced emotions and motives on her face. Hardman has previously performed in the Boston area productions of The Last Hurrah and Mary Stuart with Huntington Theatre Company and A Christmas Carol with New Repertory Theatre. A former artist-in-residence at Chicago's Court Theatre, Hardman also boasts many Chicago performance and teaching credits, having trained with Chicago Shakespeare Theatre and Shakespeare & Co.
The romantic hero, Orlando, is portrayed by ASP Resident Acting Company member Jesse Hinson. Orlando is a lover and a fighter, and Hinson plays him as such, imbuing his character with intense passion for each and every task set before him, from (literally) wrestling for his life in Frederick's court, to throwing blows with his brother, to writing heartfelt (yet somewhat corny) love poems to Rosalind. Hinson has previously performed in ASP's productions of Pericles, Twelfth Night and Antony and Cleopatra, as well as numerous productions with Stoneham Theater, Berkshire Theatre Group, and Brandeis Theatre Company.
Joel Colodner plays both evil and good as (respectively) Duke Frederick and his banished brother, Duke Senior. Colodner, whose impressive resume includes many ASP shows, performing alongside Meryl Streep and John Lithgow in New York City, and television work in L.A., enlivens the space with his talent and his deep, booming voice. Mara Sidmore never misses a beat as Rosalind's bosom friend (and Frederick's daughter) Celia, finding her character and humor through both Shakespeare's language and her own playful physicality. Johnnie McQuarley is fantastically villainous as Oliver, and his early monologues stand out due to the great energy with which he delivers them.
As You Like It runs through May 18, 2014, at The Springstep Building, 98 George P. Hassett Drive, Medford, Massachusetts. Performances are Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30pm, Saturdays at 3:00pm and 8:00pm, and Sundays at 2:00pm, with student matinee performances on May 14th and 15th at 10:00am (and post-show discussions after each Sunday and student matinee performance). Tickets are $28 - $50; for tickets and more information, visit actorsshakespeareproject.org or call 866-811-4111.