Academic journal article Early Modern Literary Studies

As You like It

Academic journal article Early Modern Literary Studies

As You like It

Article excerpt

As You Like It, presented by the Pittsburgh Public Theater at the O'Reilly Theater, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 16 February 2012

Adapted and Directed by Ted Pappas. Scenic Design by James Noone. Music composed by Michael Moricz. Sound Design by Zach Moore. Costume Design by Gabriel Berry. Lighting Design by Kirk Bookman. Fight Direction by Randy Kovitz. With Gretchen Egolf (Rosalind), Christian Conn (Orlando), Julia Coffey (Celia), Alex Coleman (Corin/Sir Oliver), Douglas Harmsen (Touchstone), Ross Bickell (Duke Frederick/Duke Senior), Anderson Matthews (Jaques), Noble Shropshire (Adam/Mar-Text), David Whalen (Oliver), Theo Allyn (Phoebe), Chris Landis (Silvius), Daniel Krell (Le Beau/Amiens), Lisa Ann Goldsmith (Audrey), Don Digiulio (Dennis/Lord/Forester), David Bielewicz (Jaques De Boys/Forester) and Lindsay Smiling (Charles/William/Hymen).

The Pittsburgh Public Theater supplies its city's metropolitan area with a professional, semi-repertory company that rotates regularly through contemporary, classical, local, and - every two years or so -Shakespearean plays. Over the past six years, the PPT has focused on comedies, offering The Comedy of Errors in 2008, A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2010, and As You Like It this year - all three collaborations between artistic director Ted Pappas and designer James Noone. The productions have been characterized by simple, clever scenery, well-rehearsed stage work, and perhaps most noticeably, a keen eye for physical comedy. The Comedy of Errors owed as much to vaudeville as it did Plautus, and Pyramus' suicide at the end of A Midsummer Night's Dream went on for what seemed like hours, reducing more than one audience member to tears of laughter.

With its focus more clearly on romance than Comedy or Dream, As You Like It lacks the sheer comic momentum that these plays naturally generate. To address this, and to create a production that would appeal to a broad popular audience, Pappas and Noone judiciously and successfully employed a range of textual and performative choices that had served them well in the past.

A brisk rhythm was established with a combination of careful cutting of lines and dynamic blocking. Few speeches were eliminated entirely, but nearly all were attenuated to some degree. Along with this, the stage of the O'Reilly Theater was especially open, with audience seating on three sides and nearly always empty of furniture, allowing actors to range across it and creating a constant sense of movement and energy. In delivering his 'Seven Ages' speech, for example, Jaques did not stand still for a moment, pacing across the stage to address characters and audience members alike.

Blue lights on a stark white stage created a somber mood for the opening scenes at court. The backdrop, also white, was pierced by four evenly-spaced white doors. Occasionally a pattern of latticework was projected onto the stage floor suggesting a prison. The forest was as light-hearted as the court was grim. To create Arden, the backdrop opened leaving a wide passage upstage. Five-foot wide panels hanging from the flies were spaced incrementally behind the backdrop. On to these and the floor were projected irregular patterns of greens and browns suggesting a thick wall of leaves and flowers. The lighting tones change from blues to yellows further brightening the set.

As with their past productions, Pappas and Noone modernized the setting, roughly to the early part of the last century. This decision was most noticeable in the costumes. Men wore suits and cravats and women wore modest, floor-length dresses. Costume designer Berry used colors to distinguish the court and the country. At court, nearly all the characters wore black; Rosalind and Celia's dresses could have been mistaken for mourning clothes and Oliver looked like an equestrian fascist in black riding boots, jodhpurs, vest, and jacket and matching quirt. Only the lower-status Orlando and Adam departed from this color scheme, wearing drab browns and grays. …

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