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Shakespeare Alfresco–As WE Like It
by Sherri Rase     |     Bookmark and Share
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photo ©James Morey, the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey
Celia, played by Maria Tholl (right) reads a letter from Orlando to the disguised Rosalind played by Caralyn Kozlowski
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William Shakespeare’s beloved “As You Like It” is Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey (STNJ)’s Outdoor Stage production for the Summer of 2013. The performance I attended, on June 26, proved that summer is well and truly “icumen in,” as the sultry high 80 temperatures and high humidity made the evening perfect for a sojourn to the Forest of Arden.
This is a classic Shakespeare comedy with two sets of feuding brothers–identical Dukes: not Patty and her cousin, this time, but rather Bruce Cromer as both Duke Frederick and Duke Senior—which includes some very quick costume changes and temperament changes that only an expert actor could make happen. There is also the story of O’s, Orlando played by Matthew Simpson and the oily, angry Oliver played by Jordan Laroya, both of whom are dashing veterans of the Outdoor Stage. Terence Gleeson plays Adam, the servant of the boys’ father who’s now the servant of two masters–and he certainly has his hands full! Early on there’s a well-staged fight between the brothers followed by a wrestling match featuring Benjamin Sterling as the brawny, cocksure Charles who is initially certain he’ll quickly vanquish young Orlando, only to succumb to the greatest of Achilles’ heels, Pride. Sterling is equally winsome in Act Two as William, a dullard—and quite opposite of Charles—and resplendent as Hymen, presiding over the inevitable weddings that effervesce the ending of a Shakespeare comedy.
The star of the show is yet to be met, however, and what a star she is: Caralyn Kozlowski plays the lovely and determined Rosalind. She and her earnest and loving cousin Celia, played here by Maria Tholl, are the progeny of the feuding Dukes. They are in attendance at the wrestling match, tipped off by the louche and lively factotum Le Beau, Dan Bound-Black in this production, and you can almost see Cupid’s arrows pierce Rosalind and Orlando at their first sight of one another. When Rosalind is banished by Evil Duke Frederick, she bucks up her pluck and dons breeches to travel the world in search of whatever life can bring. And the loyal Celia is right by her side. They take the names Ganymede and Aliena, and with the Duke’s clown Touchstone, away they go. The doughty and clever Touchstone is played flippantly and well by Robert Clohessy in a manner reminiscent of a quick-change artist in Penn Station or a three-card Monte expert. The expert Monte in this production is Bonnie Monte, director of the production and Artistic Director of STNJ, whose recipe for summer delight is right on target with this production. Look for classic STNJ touches like Jonathan Wentz clever and beautiful set, Andrew Hungerford’s deft and subtle lighting, Paul Canada’s luscious costumes, and Rick Sordelet’s well-choreographed fight scenes. One of the true highlights for my friends and me was the herd of Equity sheep and shepherdesses (Amy Crossman, Tess Hernandez, Isabelle Russo, Kaitlyn Schirard and Susie Wirthlin) that must be seen to be believed! They added great comic touches for the younger Shakespeare aficionados, as well as we longer term attendees. Particularly remarkable were the entries from the back of the Greek Theatre–formidable! Especially fun is Touchstone’s wooing of Audrey, Kristen Kittel, who is—hmmm, let’s say a simple soul whose buxom joys are something he savors. She is clueless and adorable and the perfect foil to this man of the world, meeting him at every turn with more than he expects.
Kozlowski as Ganymede is delightful with her boyish bravado alternating with the girly-girlness that is her true mien. The scenes where “he” has Orlando woo in Rosalind’s stead are interesting as there is odd chemistry between the two as Orlando keeps remembering Ganymede is but a youth with both the gamine and nascent masculine qualities about him … but if Ganymede were a man, more like Le Beau would he be.
What of the Good Duke in exile you say? Ah, he has fallen in with a band of good gentles including Amiens (Bound-Black), First Lord (James Costello), and Second Lord (Adam Burns), who willingly went into exile with him, and they are accompanied by James B. Carpenter, Elliot Carter Cruz, and Alex S. Thompson, who gambol and hunt and generally play Merry Men to the Duke’s Robbed Hood. Chief among the woodsman is Jaques, a melancholy favorite character for his wit and ways, played here by Greg Jackson. Jackson brings great presence to the role, and wherever he is, there goes the eye. This role is tailor-made, though within the melancholy runs a thread of something else. You’ll need to see for yourself what makes Jackson’s Jaques special.
The good Shepherd Corin is played by Raphael Nash Thompson with a great deal of wisdom and a wicked sense of fun. It is he who tips off Ganymede, Aliena, and Touchstone to the merriment about to happen, as the benighted Silvius (Craig Bazan) attempts to woo the chilly Phebe (Jennifer Mogbock). Better still is Kozlowski’s schooling of Phebe to try to see Silvius’ love as Phebe becomes smitten with Ganymede–classic triangle, with each of us wanting one who will not have us. There is much word play that moves very quickly, you’ll be laughing a beat late in some cases as the lines sink in. If you remember Krazy Kat and Ignatz, you know what’s in store.
Treats are sprinkled throughout–the balmy evening, the “treatment” of Lear jets from the nearby Morris Airport, the twinkling fireflies and the bats swooping for mosquitoes, picnicking before the show, and entrances and exits through the “house” are all part of the fun. Dan Bound-Black’s clear voice on the random song that always appears in Shakespeare plays is pure tone and beautiful. When the other foresters join him, Arden becomes a bucolic wonder indeed.
Tickets are available for performances through the box office now at 908/408-5600 or visit www.ShakespeareNJ.org to make your plans. “As You Like It” will only be available through July 18 so get thee to the nunnery! Yes, the Greek Theatre is on the campus of the College of St. Elizabeth, so arrive early and see the Art Show in the Annunciation Center, or enjoy a walk around the campus. Serenity is everywhere, so enjoy al fresco theatre at its finest with STNJ!





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