The following article appeared in the
Daily Hampshire Gazette on Tuesday, July 10, 2001.
Blaney helps steer ĎAs You Like Ití
VINCENT CLEARY, Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 10, 2001 -- HADLEY
- As the evening started, Steve Morgan, Hampshire Shakespeare Company's
manager, told the audience: "If the planes are not too distracting, if
it doesn't rain, if the bugs don't bite, if the actors are in good form,
then it will be "As You Like It."
We would see. ("Your If is the
only peacemaker. Much virtue in If." - Act V, Scene 4.)
The company's full-time Hartsbrook
School setting - open air, set among Hadley pastures, the Mount Holyoke
Range forming a majestic backdrop - is an improvement over the confines
of their former space, the garden behind the Lord Jeffery Inn. The clever
multi-level stage, and the multi-ethnic cast in this play, gave us "groundlings,"
as Steve called us, a good taste of what it must have been like to attend
a play in the bard's day, at Stratford or London.
Broadway could not have produced
a better stage set for the Arden forest, in which much of this play takes
Knowing this is a comedy, we anticipated
word play, dual identities, and above all, a happy ending.
All ends happily, no loose ends
left dangling. Of course, the suspension of disbelief required for this
ending, is a stretch, even for Shakespeare. By play's end, the two brothers,
Orlando and Oliver, arch-enemies earlier, are reconciled, as are Duke Frederick,
the usurper, and his brother and rival, the usurped Duke Senior, father
The craftsman who works this magic
is Rosalind, clearly one of Shakespeare's favorite heroines. Hers is a
rich role, one an actress can sink her teeth into - and Sandra Blaney made
the most of it. In the double role of Rosalind/Ganymede, she is the wizard,
the puppeteer who makes everything work out in the end.
Along the way we meet Shakespeare's
usual assortment of lovable little people -clowns, shepherds and shepherdesses,
country bumpkins, vicars - as well as the usual suspects who populate his
plays, lords and dukes in this case. They serve as comic counterpoint to
his lads and lasses, around whom chief elements of this story are built.
Contrary to what some post-modern
critics think, focusing on the dual role of Rosalind/Ganymede, and Phebe's
falling for a man played by a woman, this play is about friendship.
It is amicitia, in Latin, based
on the verb, amare, to love - cousins for cousins, brothers for brothers,
fathers for sons and daughters-in-law to be, and vice-versa. They are friendships
that sometimes lead, as they do here, to love and marriage.
Shakespeare offers a daunting challenge
to actors. How many times have we heard inexperienced casts recite his
words without rhythm, meaning, or, worst of all, without feeling? This
troupe spoke with brio and, usually, heartfelt emotion. They were well
trained, their lines clearly articulated.
Director Andrew Lichtenberg can
take a bow for a well-paced, funny, delightful show.
Other actors deserve special mention:
Elaine Qualter (Celia); Paco Tolson (Orlando); Harry Bauld (Touchstone);
and Lon Bull (Jaques). These four were especially good in important roles.
In addition Ed Dunn as Corin effected a convincing Down East accent; Drew
Lichtenberg was versatile in three roles, including using a guitar to accompany
his songs; and his twin brother Nicholas was believable as Silvius, a young
Blaney stood out above all. Much
of the believability of the play rested on her shoulders and she did her
role proud. Coy, winsome, clever, sweet, angry, or charming by turns as
the role demanded, she was completely at home in the part, perfectly at
ease. She was magical and got better as the evening progressed
This play contains more songs than
any play in Shakespeare. Drew Lichtenberg composed and accompanied five
original songs. The most memorable were these: "There was a lover and a
lass," sung by Paul De Vries and Marissa Sicely; and the "Hymen" song,
sung by Brooke Steinhauser and Ben Hart. It was lovely.
While the regular run for "As You
Like It" ended this weekend, the Young Company will stage it Friday, Saturday
"Othello" will run July 18-29,
Aug 1-5. Admission ranges from $12 to $6; for the Young Company performances,
it is $5. Call 548-8118.