Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 5, 2013

As You Like It

Suffield Players, Suffield, CT
through May 18, 2013
by Shera Cohen

Love at first sight is all around in the French palaces of Shakespeare’s era some four centuries ago, its Robin Hood-ish forest, and on the stage at Suffield Players. One of the Bard’s richest comedies, “As You Like It,” abounds with action, comedy, and swooning. The play is such a delight that audience leaves the theatre having “liked it” very much.

As is familiar with Shakespeare’s humor, the play includes his basics: mistaken identity, banishment, the wise Fool/Jester, gutsy women, sidebar stories, and of course love. Place most of the action in the Forest of Arden with four passionate or convenient duos, and a philosopher; the result is “a comedy of errors” coupled with the “all’s well that ends well” happy ending. There are no surprises in the script. However, there might be some in the production for those who are not frequent Suffield Players’ fans.

Surprise #1) A community theatre troupe so successfully mounts a Shakespeare play and the cast memorizes Elizabethan language without a blip. #2) The cast of 20 move, romp, and love on a very small stage without bumping into each other and forest accoutrements. #3) The time is present day, complete with cell phone props. #4) Lead actors fit their roles perfectly. This last surprise is especially important because most community theatres mount their season finale in May, so many of the “best” actors are grabbed up. Suffield selected some of their regulars along with newbies to form an excellent mix.

Chris Rohmann directs his actors in purposeful poses when needed (“I am no woman” quartet) and running and chasing, also when needed. The bottom line is, there is no time for anyone in the audience to look at his watch or, more importantly, even want to. The dialogue and action are tight.

To single out a few actors is difficult, yet…Becky Rodia Schoenfeld’s Rosalind plays spunky and intelligent with aplomb, Rylan Morsbach’s Orlando personifies naiveté, Robert Lunde’s Touchstone (Fool) displays the devil-may-care, and Nathan Rumney’s shepherd portrays bumpkin with a capital “B.”

The set! Kudos goes to designers Konrad Rogowski and Kelly Seip for masterful creation of the Forest of Arden. During Act I, drably painted doors of a court open to trees, flowers, shrubs, and a brook; from gray to in-living-color. Far more to say, but instead of reading this, get ye to Suffield.