PLAINFIELD – Shakespeare’s treatment of women in his plays is varied and controversial, but there’s no question that Rosalind in the comedy “As You Like It” is in control of her own destiny. And in the Plainfield Little Theatre production, which opened Thursday at Plainfield Town Hall Opera House, she had a lot of fun along the way – and so did most of her friends (and a few enemies).
“As You Like It” follows Rosalind as she is banished from court, following her father, Duke Senior, whose kingdom was usurped by his younger brother Duke Frederick. His daughter Celia joins Rosalind fleeing, but first Rosalind meets another outcast, the handsome Orlando. Of course, both fall head over heels in love.
But Rosalind must flee, and disguised as the male Ganymede with Celia as his “sister” Aliena (Latin for stranger) head to the Forest of Arden. There they again meet Orlando, who has been posting love poems to Rosalind on trees all over the place. Unrecognized, Rosalind as Ganymede agrees to teach Orlando how to woo his beloved Rosalind – and proceeds to taunt the poor guy.
There are multiple subplots, including the comely shepherdess Phoebe falling in love with Ganymede and rejecting her unhappy suitor Silvius. This being a comedy, after seemingly endless hijinks, they all come together with multiple marriages.
Plainfield Little Theatre, and its Marshfield cousin Unadilla Theatre have created a community theater tradition of serious Shakespeare productions in the area. They have even attracted professional actors, anxious to enjoy playing one of the Bard’s delicious characters, including in this one. And they have schooled a seemingly endless supply of community actors, young and old, in the tradition.
At the center of this movement is Tom Blachly, son of Unadilla founder Bill Blachly, who has either acted in or directed most of the Shakespeare productions in the area. This “As You Like It” has the trademarks of a Tom Blachly production – despite rudimentary and unimaginative stage, natural storytelling with “real characters” that is irresistible.
And irresistible was this production’s Rosalind. Sorsha Anderson, a veteran of both Blachly’s and professional Shakespeare productions, successfully combined both the romantic and the comic sides of Rosalind. She was complemented throughout by Pollaidh Major’s ingratiating performance as Celia. The two were the core of the production’s success.
Three excellent comic performances were provided by area Shakespeare veterans. David Klein was a delight as the melancholy fool Jaques (who gets all the best speeches in the play, including “All the world’s a stage …”) Although he didn’t seem to know when to let up, Matthew Grant Winston created an imaginatively comic jester Touchstone. I’m not sure how comic Duke Senior is supposed to be, but the inimitable Clarke Jordan delivered with charm.
Two newcomers were responsible for particularly good performances. Although he had a tendency to talk too fast – thereby being difficult to understand at times – Richard Littauer embodied Orlando heart and soul. Macey Mayfield’s Phoebe was a delightful saucy wench who knew her mind (or did she?).
Most of the cast of nearly 18 held their own. Jessica Della Peppa as Chantal was responsible for some fine singing. Jim Hogue, who played various roles, was choreographed some of the most effective fights I’ve seen on stage. They were scary!
Most of the action took place on a runway that bisected the audience. This was responsible for excellent visibility, but made some of the scene changes clumsy. According to the program, the setting was the 1960s, but the mishmash of costumes made it anyone’s guess.
Nevertheless, Plainfield Little Theatre’s “As You Like It” was more than fun, it was good Shakespeare and irresistible storytelling.