`As You like It' Is a Long, Amusing Journey

Article excerpt

Byline: Dorothy Velasco For The Register-Guard

The inaugural show in the University of Oregon's new Hope Theatre, Shakespeare's popular comedy "As You Like It," is amusing but long. Ideal for a university production, it offers a multitude of juicy roles for young students.

In fact, the characters are all interpreted as young, including the servant, Adam, who is old and decrepit in the script. Now he's a sidekick of the young hero.

Although the play contains some of Shakespeare's most famous and endearing dialogue, don't expect it to make much sense. The exposition is overly complicated and logic is surprisingly absent. The tone is so light that we never doubt the characters will end well.

In the beginning we meet Duke Frederick, who has banished his older brother to live in exile with a handful of followers. The banished Duke's daughter Rosalind has stayed at court, where she falls in love with Orlando, a young man oppressed by his own tyrannical brother.

When Rosalind angers her uncle he banishes her also. Accompanied by her cousin Celia and Touchstone, the court clown, they buy a cottage in the forest. Disguising herself as a shepherd boy named Ganymede, Rosalind discovers Orlando has also fled the city, and she teasingly tells him she can teach him to smooth his rough edges and woo Rosalind.

After a flurry of dramatic scenes at the beginning, there is little to create tension for the rest of the play. Fortunately, the author includes so many amusing elements - a wrestling match, songs and multiple romances - that we're kept entertained for the most part.

Director Jack Watson has reset the action in Las Vegas for the court scenes and a woodsy yoga retreat for the Forest of Arden. Jerry Hooker's minimalist set design gives no hint that the court is Las Vegas, although costume designer Sue Surdam Bean does dress the men in slick striped suits.

The black box Hope Theatre is spacious enough to accommodate large casts without losing intimate contact with the audience. Large, low platforms are easily moved to change the locale, although the most noticeable changes result from the lighting by Janet Rose.

"As You Like It" is filled with paired comparisons - the court versus bucolic life, the exiled Duke and his evil brother, Orlando and his brother, Rosalind and her male persona Ganymede, the clown Touchstone and one of Shakespeare's most interesting characters, the melancholic Jacques, played with droll charm by Jackie Bruchman. …