Arts and Entertainment

'As You Like It': Another summer of Shakespeare by Island Stage Left

Sylvie Davidson of Seattle plays Rosalind in Island Stage Left’s production of ‘As You Like It.”   - Contributed photo / John Sinclair
Sylvie Davidson of Seattle plays Rosalind in Island Stage Left’s production of ‘As You Like It.”
— image credit: Contributed photo / John Sinclair

“Why then, can one desire too much of a good thing?” asks Rosalind in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.”

In Island Stage Left’s presentation of this comedy, there’s no such thing as “too much of a good thing.”

For 11 years, Island Stage Left has been wowing islanders and visitors alike with a very good thing: polished and enjoyable performances of Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies. This summer promises to be no different as Island Stage Left unveils its latest project. Arguably one of Shakespeare’s lightest comedies, the play bursts with activity and emotion.

“It has all the elements: two fights, evil dukes, lovers, clowns, singing and dancing,” director Helen Machin-Smith said. The play also offers one of Shakespeare’s most developed female characters. “Rosalind runs the show,” Machin-Smith said of the play’s leading lady.

“As You Like It” is set in the Forest of Arden, a magical and ambiguously located French woodland. For Machin-Smith, the setting and mood inspired her to relocate the play from France to Edwardian-period Russia.

The audience will see little reminders of Russia throughout the play. The character of Touchstone has been dressed as a gypsy and elements of Russian architecture have been added to the set.

At its core, “As You Like It” is a celebration of rural life. The theater company is hopeful that the pastoral backdrop of the play will strike a chord with islanders and visitors, who have also chosen to escape civilization in favor of a simpler existence in the San Juans, whether for life or just a vacation.

Although not one of Shakespeare’s more recognizable pieces, “As You Like It” has clearly made an impact on our modern vernacular. Phrases like “love at first sight,” “too much of a good thing,” “forever and a day,” and “all the world’s a stage” were first introduced in this text.

The theater company has been in rehearsals for “As You Like It” since early June. About half of the cast is made up of local actors and the other half are professional actors from off-island. As always, the cast participates in a “magic rehearsal” a couple weeks before the first performance. This year, the actors were taken to an Arden-like patch of forest on the island; the details of the location remaining a mystery. The actors then rehearsed, using the environment as inspiration.

Machin-Smith has found that the experience brings the cast closer together. However, it also, “throws people off a bit.” The actors return from “magic” with fresh ideas and new insight into their characters.

“This has been a great group to work with,” Machin-Smith said of the cast. “They give me a 110 percent all the time.”

Island Stage Left’s production of “As You Like It” premieres July 17. On Fridays through Sundays, July 17-26, the show is staged at 1062 Wold Road. On Thursdays through Sundays, July 30 to Aug. 22, it will be at the Roche Harbor Amphitheatre. All performances begin at 8:15 p.m. Admission is free but donations are welcome. Because both venues are outside, audience members are encouraged to bring warm clothes and a blanket.

The Cast
— Robert Olguin: Orlando
— Alan Geddes: Adam, Silvius, ensemble
— Doug Schirmer: Oliver, ensemble
— Alex Robertson: Charles, Touchstone
— Sylvie Davidson: Rosalind
— Kate Parker: Celia
— Ann Cozzalio: Madame Le Beau
— Daniel Mayes: Duke Frederick, Corin, Jaques, ensemble
— Dorian Oliver: Duke Senior, ensemble
— Nicholas Zervas: Amiens
— James Krall: Lord, William, Jakes de Boys, ensemble
— Marnell Witte: Audrey
— Joan Benney: Phoebe, ensemble

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