Andrew Hamm: the Bipolar Express

Ruminations on theatre, music, and just about anything else that crosses my bipolar brain.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

"As You Like It 2: Like Harder!" Opens

Last night saw the first preview performance of the Richmond Shakespeare Festival's As You Like It. The show previews again tonight (Thursday) at 8:00, then opens officially on Saturday. It's an abbreviated run; just two previews and six performances, closing July 13, so don't miss it.

It's been a unique challenge and opportunity for Master of Verse Julie Phillips and I to restage a very successful production. Questions abounded: How many moments from the spring production do we duplicate? Do we change things just for the sake of changing them? What different perspective would Julie bring to a show that I had already seen through a complete production process and run? And how would the addition of nine new actors change what the play looks like and what it's about?

Well, Julie and I working together is never a problem. We co-directed Doctor Faustus in winter 2007, and had a long-standing mutual admiration society established before then. Julie has great ideas that I would never have thought of; she is the perfect example of how the two-headed directing process can work. Where I see physical choices, she sees verbal, and where I think something is funny that no one else ever possibly could, she reins me in. It's a great partnership; I never have more fun on the directing side of the table as when I'm working with Julie. And the new actors are a special bunch, five seasoned veterans and four apprentices to create the unforgettable characters which give As You Like It its texture and charm.

All five original actors have returned: Sunny LaRose's Rosalind, Patrick Bromley's Orlando, Julia Rigby's Celia, Frank Creasy's Jaques and Charles, and Adam Mincks's Touchstone and LeBeau all have a chance to live again, and to breathe a little more deeply now that the actors don't have to play all the other characters as well. The new actors have freely reinterpreted their roles: Dan Summey and Michael Dunn as the good and evil dukes, Liz Blake and Jake Allard as Phebe and Silvius, Jay Banks and Jennifer Vick as William and Audrey, Danny Devlin as Oliver and Sir Oliver Mar-Text, Cabell Neterer as Dennis, and Jeffry Clevenger as Adam and Corin all bring very different stuff to the table.

We've also added to the music. Jake Allard on drums and Todd Borden on bass round out the new Festival trio: Liz Blake and the Caliband. The play begins at 8:00, but the show starts at 7:30 with a preshow mini-concert and impromptu love poetry by Pat, Danny, and Adam.

Lighting designer J. David White has done a wonderful job establishing the beautiful dappled light of the forest of Arden, and Becky Cairns' and Annie Hoskins' costumes are a wonderful expansion of the already-gorgeous palate from spring. The trees are a personal favorite. Will Hankins and Agecroft's Richard Moxley have built some wonderful two-sided benches to delineate city from country. There are even a couple treats for Star Trek fans in there, as well.

What could be more charming than Shakespeare's most romantic play after a picnic on the grounds of Agecroft Hall? If you saw the show in April, you owe it to yourself to come out to the Richmond Shakespeare Festival for what we've been calling As You Like It 2: Like Harder!

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