Monday, November 17, 2014

As You Like It—Post 5 Theatre--SE Portland

“As I Remember Adam…”

Shakespeare’s classic comedy is directed by Ty Boice (Post 5’s Artistic Director) and is playing at their new space in the Sellwood-Moreland area of Portland at 1666 SE Lambert St.  It performs through December 13th.  For more information, go to their site at www.port5theatre.org

…Are the opening words of this play and also the title of the autobiography of the Founder of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, OR, Dr. Angus “Gus” Bowmer.  I studied with him when I went to college back in the late 60’s and was part of the acting troupe for that company for a couple of seasons.  He always believed in the importance of the “little people,” the character roles, in the plays and in the early years of his theatre, always enacted Shylock in Merchant of Venice, Peter Quince in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and, of course, Adam, in As You Like It.

I will attempt to give you a sense of the story by giving a thumbnail sketch of the plot but that is not wherein the fun lies.  To try and put it into one sentence, it is a ribald, rip-roarin’, rootin’-tootin’, rib-ticklin’, reef-induced, rough ‘n tumble, raucous, raunchy ride into the woods.

But, for those of you who prefer a more mundane approach, it is about a deposed brother of royalty, Orlando (Chip Sherman) and his faithful servant, Adam (Daniel Robertson) attempting to regain his good name because, it seems that his Uncle, the Duke (Jim Butterfield) and his brother, Oliver (Gilbert Feliciano), have labeled his father a traitor, and having failed to kill him in the wrasling…er, wrestling, ring by Charles (Will Steele), he thereby escapes to the nearby Forest of Arden but not before being smitten by Rosalind (Isabella Buckner), who is also on the run with her cousin, Celia (Jessica Tidd), both of whom, with their servant, Touchstone (Max Maller), have been banished by the bad Duke.  Whew!

Wait, there’s more.  The forest is run by another sort of Duke, Fred (Michael Streeter), and his band of (a little too) mellow, mischievous, merry men (and women) who also share the forest with some shepherds, Sylvius (Sean Powell) and Corin (again, Robertson) watching their flocks by night (and days, too, I suppose) and inhaling some of the local weed, also.  Of course there are also a couple of shepherdesses, one of which, Audrey (Anne Adams), falls for Touchstone and the other, Phoebe (Julia White), falls for Gannymede (forgot to tell you, Rosalind has disguised herself as this man so that she/he can investigate the wooing methods of Orlando.)

Also there are some hippie-like musicians (Leia Young, Christopher Beatty and, again, Adams) that inhabit the forest.  And, oh yes, there is the melancholy Jacques (Keith Cable) who has one of the most famous Shakespeare monologues, Seven Ages of Man, and seems to be a servant but his loyalties seem to be toward whoever’s around at the time.  Can’t tell you who will end up with whom but, after all, it is a comedy.  I think this covers all the characters for those of you who need some sort of plot.  But, as I said, the fun lies in the presentation.

Boice, the director, is quite amazing and has knocked this one out of the park!  His presentation should stand as a classic as to how to present Shakespearean comedy.  He has pulled ever nuance, sight gag, and comedy bits or pratfalls out of the bag and had the audience in almost constant laughter.  And he has chosen his cast well, as they all are wonderful in the many guises they put on.  And the forest set is simple but amazing (pity the poor person, though, that must pick up and separate the leaves after every show).  This production is a must see!

The additions of the musicians/songs (Beatty, Young and Adams) are a welcome addition to an already amazing show.  Cable is a seasoned performer and nails the cynical Jacques.  Sherman is always good in every show I’ve seen him in and his physicality/movement, also, is an asset to his character creations.  Buckner is an absolute scream as Gannymede, wavering between the female and males side with such ease that you’d think she was two actors.  And Tidd has a wonderfully expressive face and pulls all stops to gander the laughs.  And a couple of gems in the “little people” (as Bowmer might say) are Robertson as Adam and Corin.  His elastic face and expressions are worth a thousand laughs.  And White is an amazing find.  She commands the stage every time she’s on it.  It is obvious she understands comedy, movement, acting and Shakespeare.  I hope to see more of her onstage.

I highly recommend this production.  If you do see it, tell them Dennis sent you.