NAMPA — Setting the mood with dancing flappers performing a rollicking Charleston, Director Jonathan Perry launches into one of Shakespeare’s most charming and lighthearted comedies, “As You Like It,” with a Roaring ’20s aura that really works.
The combination of fabulous costumes by Bobbi Carlson, complete with feathers and beads, the lively choreography of Stacy Irwin, and Bill and Vanessa Henscheid’s simple but effective set background of a grinning sliver of a moon surrounded by stars, all come together to create an evening of fun and enchantment. The perky vocal stylings of Merilee Glass also give great pizzazz and color to the production.
Outstanding performances are given by the leading foursome: Tyler Whitt as the sinister Oliver, who takes sibling rivalry to the extreme; Caitlin Bauder as Celia, the sassy (but not dizzy) blonde daughter of Duke Frederick; Gabriel Woodworth as dashing, young Orlando, the mistreated brother of the repressive Oliver; and Lindsay Kline, the adorable Rosalind, daughter of the banished Duke Senior. Kline is hilarious in her masculine disguise as Ganymede, when she switches back and forth from her girlish self to her hands-on-hips, swaggering stance and boyish husky voice.
Mitch Barker, who plays both the good Duke Senior and the evil Duke Frederick, makes the difference very clear as he dons black gangster-like suits for Frederick and woodsy apparel for Duke Senior, who is living in the forest of Arden.
Duke Senior’s forest entourage includes one of Shakespeare’s most interesting characters, Jaques, whose vivid speeches and moralizing live beyond the confines of this comedy. In a unique twist of casting, Director Perry has chosen his wife, Jodi Perry, to be the first female Jaques (or Jackie?) I have ever seen on stage, and she creates a whole new persona that adds mightily to the comic impact. Garbed in black, with red blouse, black boots and a jaunty hat, Jodi delivers her seven ages of man speech beginning with “All the world’s a stage,” with a memorable flourish.
Using a New York accent (perhaps to relate to the speakeasy culture of the 20s in the Big City) she dominates her every scene with “humorous sadness.” And in a play that seems to exist in order to match up as many couples as possible, even she is pursued by Corin, a rustic shepherd delightfully performed by Doug Brinkman.
Another character who has had a sex change from Shakespeare’s original script is Adam, the aging and complaining but loyal servant who tags along with Orlando when he is banished from court. Adam is portrayed by Michelle Maendl, who wrings more laughs from the role than I believed possible. And Jewels Perry (yes, Jodi’s daughter) manages to be a credible male priest, who converts the Duke from his evil ways.
Rick Lopez is marvelous as the elegant clown, Touchstone, who accompanies the cousins Rosalind and Celia when they run away from court to find Rosalind’s father in the forest. Lopez is hysterical as he woos the country wench Audrey, played with amusing gusto by Karen Christensen.
In the growing list of lovers, Phebe, lustily played by Shanee Knerr, rejects her suitor, the earnest and helpful shepherd Silvius, (Ezaquiel Lorta) because she falls in love with Ganymede (Rosalind in male disguise). Also in an amazing turnabout, Whitt’s nasty character Oliver has a change of heart, embraces his brother Orlando (who has saved his life in the woods) and falls head over heels in love with the darling Celia of the bobbing lemon curls and golden shoes.
Sound confusing? Not to worry. With joyous revelry the lovers sort themselves out, Ganymede/Rosalind solves all the dilemmas, and probably they all live happily ever after.
Check it out
What: Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” performed by Encore Theatre Company
When: 7:30 p.m. , Thursday through Saturday
Where: On the Calliope Garden stage at the Nampa Civic Center, 311 3rd Street South, Nampa and July 17 at the Ashley Inn outdoor theater in Cascade
Tickets: 4/adult, $7/student in advance at encoreetc.org or $11 at the door