Last night, a friend and I ventured to Bloomsburg to see the BLOOMSBURG THEATRE ENSEMBLE'S
production of Shakespeare's comedy "As You Like It."
I almost didn't go. "As You Like It" is a play that I may or may not have read for the Shakespeare course I took during my junior year at Leeds. I say "may or may not" because I really can't remember. But, reading the synopsis on BTE's website, it sounded a lot like "Twelfth Night," a play which I definitely DID read (and have also seen performed). But, NEPA isn't Stratford, so it's not like you can see live Shakespeare anytime you want. So, I contacted my friend, bought tickets, and off we went.
I'm certainly glad we did.
The plot of "As You Like it" is roughly this: A mean, old Duke forces a young woman named Rosalind to flee the comfort of the court. She takes along her best friend, Celia. To help avoid capture, Rosalind disguises herself as a man, while Celia adopts an assumed name. They make it safely to the forest, where the good brother of the mean Duke has set up camp with some loyal followers.
The mean, old Duke also banishes his youngest son, Orlando, who he sees as worthless. Orlando and Rosalind have a brief encounter before they are both banished, but once they arrive in the woods, neither one knows that the other is there.
A lovesick Orlando scatters handwritten love notes to Rosalind throughout the forest. Rosalind sees them, and in her male disguise, promises to cure Orlando of his obsession. Of course, it's not that simple. Soon, Rosalind finds herself having to think fast to save her own romance, along with the romances of Celia, plus a smitten shepherd and his reluctant girlfriend.
The play hits all the usual elements of a Shakespearean comedy - disguises and mistaken identity, love, the forest (nature) as a magical place where things are set right, redemption.
Setting aside any arguments of the strength or weakness of the plot, this production of "As You Like It" sparkled with humor and shone with fine performances. MCCAMBRIDGE DOWD-WHIPPLE
(who has BTE in her genes) stood out as Rosalind. The other cast members also excelled (and many of them played two or three roles!).
But, I think what impressed me most about this production was the staging. The director utilized the entire theatre, with characters coming and going from stage right and stage left - and from the back of the theatre. Characters often ran up or down the steps. Sometimes, depending on where you were sitting, you heard them before you saw them.
This particular production also incorporated a live band on stage, comprised of young musicians from the Bloomsburg area. They contributed both background music and original songs. I particularly liked the brooding theme they played each time the mean, old Duke appeared.
Several audience members also sat on either side of the stage. In a few instances, they became part of the action.
In short, director LAURIE MCCANTS
made the Alvina Krause Theatre her forest. She gave the actors everything they needed to play in it and let the audience join in the fun. And a good time was had by all.