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Great Lakes Theater’s production of ‘As You Like It’ has lots to like

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As You Like It

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In the seemingly endless topography that makes up the fine arts there are numerous gradations in which to judge particular works. This is especially true of the plays of William Shakespeare. In short, there is “very bad Shakespeare”, “bad Shakespeare”, “mediocre Shakespeare”, “OK Shakespeare”, “good Shakespeare”, “great Shakespeare” and “phenomenal Shakespeare”. In my short education in the fine arts I have witnessed a bit of all categories and one thing that I have observed is the consistency of high quality that is achieved with each and every Great Lakes Theater presentation.

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Last night was the preview/premiere of William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” now playing through April 19, 2014 in the Hanna Theatre at PlayhouseSquare. It is this show that I give the highest accolade. The great thing about Great Lakes is that you never know what little twist they will throw in to make the show not only palatable but downright enjoyable. Yes, it is still Middle English just as it was written, but GLT always does something remarkable and modern in the costuming, set or music that helps us of lesser understanding audience members “get” what is happening on stage.

Last night’s production is a prime example. Yes…it is Shakespeare, but with songs from the 20’s and 30’s, tap dancing, a tricycle, “modern” costumes (from the 30’s and 40’s as opposed to Elizabethan garb), a barbershop quartet, a factory scene opening rather than a castle, wrestling, a slight relocation to New England and lots of zingers. Yet the true spirit of the original work still shines through. It is a production designed to make you think but helps you with the process.

The story consists of two cousins, Rosalind and Celia who run off to the Forest of Arden after Rosalind has been banished by Frederick (who had usurped and exiled his older brother, Duke Senior, father of Rosalind). They flee in disguise with Touchstone (the court jester) with Rosalind dressed as a man and Celia as a poor lady of means. At the same time, Orlando flees with his late father’s servant, Adam, to the same forest after being threatened by his brother, Oliver.

In the forest, the various refugees meet up with other banished parties as well as the lovelorn sheppards, Silvius and Phebe (the love of Silvius’s life). Rosalind while disguised as a man, Ganymede, falls in love with Orlando who is posting love poems to Rosalind all over the forest. Silvius pursues Phebe while fighting off Phebe’s suitor, William (a wood cutter), with threats, Orlando saves Oliver from a lion attack which causes a change of heart in the bad brother who falls in love with Celia while the court jester is chasing Audrey (a lusty shepherdess). In the end, all is revealed, the proper couples are united and the play ends on a happy note.

While all the actors delivered exceptional performances, there were some standouts that need mentioning. To begin with, Dustin Tucker as Touchstone brings much of the plays mirth and merriment. He plays the role with lustful abandon with facial tics that will delight you. David Anthony Smith as the melancholy, Jacques, reminded me much of Professor Snipes from the Harry Potter movies with his droll underplayed delivery dripping with false sincerity. You will find yourself rooting for him to lighten up but don’t expect much. The character is what it is and Smith plays it straight and true. Dougfred Miller who plays both brothers, Duke Frederick and Duke Senior who I did not recognize due to the superb costuming and make-up and lastly Aled Davies as Adam and Corin again with remarkable make-up. Alas, this is the final production for this season so I encourage you to get your tickets and see this gem.

Beefs and Flubs: It is not often that I can say this, but this production (in my limited experience) was nearly perfect. The set was changed smoothly, the voice projection well done, the singing superb, the story line easy to follow and the jokes easy to laugh at (even though they date back to the 1600’s), and as in all great Shakespeare, the dialog was delivered as rapid poetry moving the play along at a brisk pace.

Prude Alert: This is a romantic comedy that is done very tastefully and one which everyone who loves Shakespeare (whether they realize it or not) can come and see.

Shooting From The Lip (In My Opinion): What better way to end another exceptional season with Great Lakes Theater then the production of William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”. This is an excellent introduction for those novices out there who think Shakespeare is too “high brow” or hard to understand as well as the veteran theater patrons looking for something wonderful. This is a fast moving, comedic delight that brings Shakespeare to life. Don’t miss this one.

The Cast

David Anthony Smith* is Jaques, Torsten Johnson* as Orlando, Aled Davies* as Adams, J. Todd Adams* as Oliver, Jodi Dominick as Denise*, Andrew Voss as Charles, Christine Weber* as Celia, Betsy Mugavero* as Rosalind, Dustin Rucker* as Touchstone, M.A. Taylor* as Le Beau, Dougfred Miller* as Duke Frederick, Juan Rivera Lebron* as Officer 1, Patrick John Kiernan as Officer 2, Dougfred Miller * as Duke Senior, Eric Damon Smith* as Amiens, Tom Ford* as Lord 1, Patrick John Kiernan as Lord 2, Andrew Voss* as Lord 3, Aled Davies* as Corin, Juan Rivera Lebron* as Silvius, Atlie Gilbert as Audrey, M.A. Taylor* as Sir Oliver Martext, Jodi Dominick* as Phoebe and Andrew Voss as William.

The Crew

Written by William Shakespeare, Directed by Edward Morgan with Russell Medtheny, Scenic Designer: Kim Krumm Sorenson, Costume Designer; Rick Martin, Lighting Designer; Joe Court, Sound Designer; Martin Cespédes, Choreographer; Ken Merckx, Fight Choreographer; Nathan Motta, Music Director and Tim Kinzel, Stage Director.

*Members of Actors’ Equity Associations, The Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

Generous production support for As You Like It was provided by Lynn & Tim Pistell and The Great Lakes Theater Business Alliance. Special Student Matinee Series support for As You Like It was provided by PNC. GLT is supported in great part by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture. Season support is also provided by The Cleveland Foundation and the Ohio Arts Council. Media sponsors for GLT’s 52nd season are The FORM Group, Ideastream (WCLV 104.9 FM and WCPN 90.3 FM), The Northeast Ohio Media Group and WKSU 89.7 FM.

Great Lakes Theater’s award-winning home at the Hanna Theatre features a visionary “Great Room” inspired design that integrates the artist and audience experience into a single unified environment. Hanna patrons select from a variety of seating opportunities including traditional theater seats, club chairs, lounge/bar seats, banquette couches and private box seating. Arranged in an intimate 550-seat thrust configuration where the audience surrounds the stage, no seat is further than 12 rows from the performance.

Great Lakes Theater offers patrons a robust series of Experience Enhancement Programming that is organized by day of week. The series highlights the Hanna’s unique amenities and affords access to artists.

--“Salon Thursdays” feature an engaging pre-show discussion/presentation beginning one hour before curtain with a Great Lakes Theater artist. (Offered: Apr. 10, 17)

--“Happy Hour Fridays” afford audience members the opportunity to gather, socialize and enjoy appetizers or beverages for sale in the Hanna’s bar and lounge beginning ninety minutes before the performance. (Offered: Apr. 11, 18)

--“Nightcap Night Saturdays” are designed to encourage audience members to stay after the evening performance and mingle with the GLT artistic company in the Hanna’s lounge. The Hanna’s bar is open ninety minutes after Nightcap Night Saturday performances.” (Offered: Apr. 12, 19)

--“Ice Cream Social Sundays” offer patrons the opportunity to enjoy a London theatre tradition brought state-side. Audience members are invited to purchase a cool, personal ice cream treat before the show or at intermission. Ice cream will be offered at every performance in Deathtrap’s run, but on “Ice Cream Social Sundays,” the treat is half price. (Offered: Apr. 6, 13)

--“Director’s Night” offer audiences the opportunity to take part in a lively pre-show discussion with GLT’s Producing Artistic Director, Charles Fee before the Friday preview performance. (Offered: Apr. 4)

--“Playnotes Pre-Show Discussions” inform patrons with illuminating introductions to the content and history of each play in GLT’s season presented by a guest scholar before Saturday matinee performances. (Offered: Apr. 12, 19)

Great Lakes Theater will continue to afford patrons extraordinary access to its artists and production process at every Hanna Theatre performance of “As You Like It”. The Hanna always opens its doors ninety minutes before each performance allowing patrons to observe the complete pre-show preparation process of GLT’s actors and technical staff. Elements traditionally hidden from audiences such as stage combat rehearsals, dance calls, prop/scenic pre-sets, technical cue rehearsals and actor warm-ups will be conducted in full view of patrons, offering GLT audiences an unprecedented glimpse into the theatrical process.

Great Lakes Theater will also renew its New Deal pricing initiative this spring - designed to increase accessibility for audiences. As part of the program, adult tickets begin at $15 and student tickets for any seat at any performance are $13 - making GLT one of the most affordable entertainment options in the region.

The Opening Night (also Press Night) performance of As You Like It is scheduled for Saturday, April 5th. A preview performance is scheduled for the preceding Friday night evening (April 4th). Curtain times for all evening performances will remain at 7:30 p.m., with a 1:30 p.m. curtain time for Saturday matinees and a 3:00 p.m. curtain time for Sunday matinees.

Single performance tickets range in price from $15-$70 (Student tickets are $13) and are available by calling (216) 241-6000, by ordering online or by visiting the PlayhouseSquare Ticket Office. Groups of ten or more receive discounts of up to 40% by calling (216) 241-5490 x302.

Great Lakes Theater (the first resident company of PlayhouseSquare) has brought the pleasure, power and relevance of classic theater to the widest possible audience since 1962. GLT programming positively impacts 100,000 adults and students annually.

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