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Love and Banishment in the Forest of Arden

Posted 10/30/2015 by Thomas Silverstein

Nick LaMedica and Emily Kron as Silvius and Phoebe light up the stage. photo courtesy of Denver Center Theatre

As You Like It, a story of lovers and self-discovery, is being performed by the Denver Center Theatre Company until November 1st.

Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It, an examination of love set in the Forest of Arden, has enjoyed an excellent run at the Space Theatre of the Denver Performing Arts Complex. The Denver Center Theatre Company adds its own flair to the classic play while maintaining Shakespeare’s eloquence and charm.

At the center of the story, Orlando and Rosalind, who met at court and fell in love at first sight, were both banished by the corrupt Duke Frederick. Both escape to the Forest of Arden, where Orlando scatters lovesick notes addressed to Rosalind, and Rosalind takes the name of Ganymede, disguises herself as a boy, and wanders the forest with her cousin and best friend Celia. Rosalind stumbles again upon Orlando and, under her boyish persona, helps him deal with his emotions by masquerading as his beloved– herself.

Rosalind and Orlando aren’t the play’s only love story; there are three other romances that take the stage. Touchstone, the court jester, pursues the sweet, naive country girl Audrey, while Silvius pines after the disdainful and harsh Phoebe. Celia ends up with Orlando’s wicked older brother Oliver, who was cruel to his brother but underwent a change in perspective after Orlando saves his life.

One of the central themes of As You Like It is gender and the roles that come with it. The play is the source of one of the most famous quotes in literature: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” Primarily with Rosalind’s character, Shakespeare sheds light on how easy it can be to fall into the pretenses of gender that society sets; Rosalind discovers how simple it is to alternate between the roles of boy and girl, and how  social roles can be imitated and falsified. After all, during Shakespeare’s time men played both male and female roles.

Along with showcasing the fluidity of gender, As You Like It shows the potential strength of a woman. Rather than acting as a damsel in distress, Rosalind “takes control of her life, stands up to injustice and endeavors to get what she wants in her world,” said Nick LaMedica (Silvius). “[‘As You Like It’] is an amazing exploration of a woman’s vast capability when given a man’s office in a world controlled by the opposite sex.”

One of the strong points of the Denver Center’s adaption is the portrayal of Rosalind by Carolyn Holding. Holding manages to play the part of Ganymede without sacrificing Rosalind’s femininity; she plays the part with grace, whimsy, and intelligence, befitting to her character.

Though she is one of director Kent Thompson’s boldest assets, Holding leaves much room for other actors to shine. Maren Bush accents Celia’s friendship with Rosalind with love and enthusiasm, while Maurice Jones showcases Orlando’s hopeless romantic side, littered with cluelessness. The roles of Duke Frederick and Duke Senior (who was usurped by his younger brother) are both played by J. Paul Boehmer, who easily alternates between Frederic’s cruelty and contempt and Senior’s generosity and free spirit.

As You Like It offers many themes that students can learn from, such as love, philosophy, and relationships. Drama teacher Michael Palmieri said, “Commitment is so important, including commitment to a cause, a friend, and a partner.  Loyalty and trust are the foundation of healthy relationships.” Even if students are wary of Shakespeare, they still have a few days to become engrossed in the Denver Center’s production of As You Like It, or at least enjoy a few laughs.

As You Like It, presented by the Denver Center Theatre Company through November 1st, Space Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100,