A featherweight tone in Burning Coal's As You Like It | Theater | Indy Week
Pin It

A featherweight tone in Burning Coal's As You Like It 

Jade Arnold, Tom McCleister and Steph Scribner in Burning Coal's "As You Like It"

Photo by the Right Image Photography Inc.

Jade Arnold, Tom McCleister and Steph Scribner in Burning Coal's "As You Like It"

You can make the case that Shakespeare pioneered both the romantic comedy and the musical comedy with As You Like It, the light-hearted pastoral romp that's been in production for, oh, about 400 years now. With its sprightly mix of song, witty wordplay and amorous plans gone awry, it's a perennial crowd pleaser.

Burning Coal's new production preserves the play's featherweight tone. Aside from the contemporary updates to costuming and contexts, there are no agendas or sub-frequencies here. Couples meet in the woods, banter and swoon, and get married on the morrow.

The story: Young maiden Rosalind, daughter of the exiled Duke Senior, flees to the Forest of Arden when she's banished by her uncle, the usurping Duke Frederick. Celia—Frederick's daughter and Rosalind's BFF—joins her cousin in exile, along with court jester Touchstone. Away from the suffocating intrigues of court life, the ladies find love with Orlando and Oliver, brothers with their own percolating family drama. Touchstone the clown finds a girl, too, while a dozen or so supporting characters dart in and out, celebrating the freedom of forest life.

Director Mark Sutch navigates the busy story via nimble stagecraft, as the seven ensemble players assume 22 speaking roles between them. The playful costume design by Jane Alois Stein provides the signifiers we need—a regal kimono, a hobo army jacket, a ragged coat with patchwork motley.

The set design is equally minimal and deft. Two nested four-post platforms and a modular back wall are constantly tweaked to represent a forest glade or a wrestling ring. Music is provided onstage by the players themselves, by way of guitars, harmonica and drums.

The ensemble works together well, and Rebecca Bossen, in particular, gives a lovely performance as Rosalind. As You Like It is packed with gender switching and doubled roles, and at one point Bossen is playing a girl pretending to be a boy posing as a girl, courting a boy. It's no mean feat, because despite the best efforts of the cast and creative team, the story can be very hard to follow. Not so much on the beat-by-beat level—most of the jokes land, and the individual scenes work fine. But plot points get lost in the shuffle, and confusion is a constant peril with this kind of cast-to-character ratio.

If you're not fairly familiar with the play already, I suggest reading up on As You Like It before attending. It's easier to appreciate the skillful stagecraft when you're not playing who's-who in your head. It'll also free up some bandwidth to register all that mischievous and musical language, set alight once again.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Season's greetings and hellish holidays."

Related Locations

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Theater



Twitter Activity

Comments

your 20 sept review of playmakers current offering missed the boat, big time. the play portrayed all the characters as …

by Pointyhead on The Cake Edits Reality to Ignore the Everyday Consequences of Bible Belt Homophobia (Theater)

Oh, I'd be amused even without the in-jokes. These folks are having a great time, and the setting is transportive. …

by needsomeokra on Wants Upon a Time Is a Commedia Dell'arte Interrogation of What Happily Ever After Really Means (Theater)

Most Recent Comments

your 20 sept review of playmakers current offering missed the boat, big time. the play portrayed all the characters as …

by Pointyhead on The Cake Edits Reality to Ignore the Everyday Consequences of Bible Belt Homophobia (Theater)

Oh, I'd be amused even without the in-jokes. These folks are having a great time, and the setting is transportive. …

by needsomeokra on Wants Upon a Time Is a Commedia Dell'arte Interrogation of What Happily Ever After Really Means (Theater)

The photo credit is incorrect. The photo was taken and edited by Areon Mobasher for Burning Coal Theatre Company. Please …

by Areon Mobasher on The Greeks Streamlines Sophocles’s Theban Trilogy Into Three Nimble, Strikingly Modern One-Acts (Theater)

I'm wondering why Dorfman specifically chose the Death and the Maiden quartet - deriving from the song Der Tod und …

by trishmapow on Forgiving is not forgetting in Ariel Dorfman's Death and the Maiden (Theater)

© 2017 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation