We are so fortunate to have the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, “Nevada’s largest professional, nonprofit theater company” so close at hand. The quote is from the program and yes, the spelled theatre that way. However, the quality of the spelling only enhances the quality of the actors. We saw a Delightful performance of As You Like It last night and once again I came away so pleased with the standards set by the director and these actors who perform all over the country in Shakespearean venues.
First: our venue. The backdrop of the theatre is the lake. Sets are designed for the purpose of allowing us to look through them to the setting beyond. Last night there were hang-gliders swooping across the sky which at one point became a little distracting, but no more so than a rising full moon on other nights. In the last 15 years, the theatre has gone from “bring your own chairs or sit on the sand” through chairs to rent, to chairs that split under you (oops), to really nice chairs even in the cheap seats. And in that setting, there are no bad seats.
The performance was wonderful. The only jarring note was Orlando who seemed a little stiff with moments of ease thrown in. He tended to orate to the audience. The other actors even when facing us were more at ease with the language and simply said their lines even at projected volume and in Elizabethan English.
The two young women (Celia and Rosalind) were delightful to watch. They reacted to each other as cousins might and were so comfortable with the language that they sounded like chattering teens heard at any family gathering today.
Rosalind’s physicality was incredible and she bounced around the stage like the young man she was disguised to be. I hope we have the privilege of seeing her quite often in a variety of roles.
As You Like It includes the Seven Ages of Man speech, one of Shakespeare’s best known and often quoted. It was a joy to listen to as Jacques simply said it. There were no asterisks around it proclaiming it to be One of Those Speeches which some actors tend to do. (“Pay attention to me now, I am going to deliver famous lines.”) He was into the speech practically before we knew it. It flowed like all the rest of the lines with clear and understandable inflection and meaning.
The play was moved into New England of the early 20th century. The setting and costumes declare this. The struggle between the greedy industrialists and the new Americans, democratic, followers of Thoreau is there if looked for deeply enough. The most fun was the use of songs that reflect these times. It was a delightful night to be an audience.