Shakespeare performed in the out-of-doors just makes sense, and the amphitheater at Raleigh Little Theatre is the perfect home for the Bard. Sitting in the elements, with the cool breeze blowing, a setting sun, and the wonderful preshow music of Corn and the Colonels (of which RLT executive director Charles Phaneuf is a member), while conversing with friends and enjoying the food truck fare — that was the perfect way to spend an evening. The meshing of food, music, theater, and the open air is a rarity and one that should be experienced often. Fortunately for RLT, they have one of the best venues in the area for it.
Minimalist company Bare Theatre has begun to weave productions into events like this, blending food, theater, and a second performance genre. In Comedy of Errors, it was acrobatics and circus; for their current staging of As You Like It, it’s music.
Director Heather J. Strickland, who is also artistic director of the company, employed the outstanding talents of The Zinc Kings, made up of Mark Dillon, Dan Clouse, and Christen Blanton Mack, to bring original Bluegrass music to the lyrics of Shakespeare’s songs. It’s a combination that works quite well, perhaps some of the best music adaptation I’ve experienced with the Bard’s sometimes clunky songs.
Strickland also did well to bring some of the strongest female talent in the area and put them all into one show. Whitney Griffin (Rosalind) and Mary Forester (Celia) command the stage and have a sincerity and a genuine connection with each other that you can’t take your eyes away from them; Rebecca Blum (Touchstone) turns one of Shakespeare’s most troublesome clowns into a show-stopper, garnering much-deserved applause from a speech late in Act II.
Laura Bess Jernigan (Phebe) and Kacey Reynolds Schedler (Audrey) carve hilarious and memorable moments out of their all-to-brief cameo appearances; and the youngest ensemble member, Riley Watson, turns in an energetic and grounded performance as Charles (a unique, but altogether unnecessary breakdown of turning Charles into a bear, led and voiced by Ms. Watson) as well as a member of the Forest Lords of Arden.
As You Like It has a complicated plot and in the interest of full disclosure, I had trouble following it, though this also proved true when Raleigh Little Theatre staged the piece in their 2004-05 season (directed by the founder of Bare Theatre and a much-missed local artist, Carmen-maria Mandley). The story has four (give or take) love stories that develop over time, and the Shakespeare’s standard themes of feuding families, mistaken identities, and the rag-tag ensemble of clowns.
The intricacies of the story alone are a hurdle the actors must overcome, but these local artists also have a bigger obstacle: technology. All of the actors weary body mics — and not very good ones They cut in and out, often at times of important plot development; and it proved virtually impossible to follow what people were saying. I understand the need or the want to amplify speech in a venue that size; but when the devices used are less-than-perfect, they can throw a wrench into an otherwise well-oiled machine.
The other thing the show has working against it is its length. Clocking it at nearly three hours with one intermission, it’s far too long, and could have used some more editing to help streamline and shave some time.
Bare Theatre has turned in a fine production with some learning experiences for the future. The overall event is worth the ticket price: a perfect outdoors evening, local food trucks, live music, and an ensemble of actors having a blast treading the boards.
SECOND OPINION: Aug. 23rd Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Alan R. Hall: http://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=6329; and Aug. 23rd Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/08/23/3130440/theater-review-as-you-like-it.html.
Bare Theatre and Raleigh Little Theatre, in collaboration with PineCone, present AS YOU LIKE IT, featuring The Zinc Kings, at 7 p.m. preshow opening bands and 8 p.m. shows Aug. 24, 29, and 30 in RLT‘s Louise “Scottie” Stephenson Amphitheatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.
BOX OFFICE: 919-821-3111 or https://raleighlittletheatre.secure.force.com/.
SHOW: http://baretheatre.org/as-you-like-it/ and http://www.raleighlittletheatre.org/shows/13-14/asyoulikeit.html.
VIDEO PREVIEW: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axPhGKvgMRU.
Aug. 24th: The Gravy Boys.
Aug. 29th: Southern String Band.
Aug. 30th: The Zinc Kings.
Bare Theatre: http://baretheatre.org/.
Raleigh Little Theatre: http://www.raleighlittletheatre.org/.
NOTE 1: Rain dates are 8 p.m. Aug. 25th and 8 p.m. Sept. 1st.
NOTE 2: All shows are wheelchair accessible.
As You Like It (c. 1599 pastoral comedy): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/As_You_Like_It (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Study Guide: http://www.bard.org/education/studyguides/AsYou/likeit.html (Utah Shakespeare Festival).
William Shakespeare (playwright): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shakespeare (Wikipedia).
Heather J. Strickland (director): https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=570185297 (Facebook page).
The Zinc Kings: http://thezinckings.com/ (official website).
Jesse R. Gephart is a Raleigh, NC-based actor, director, and reviewer. A Gainesville, FL native, he earned a degree in Theatre Performance in 2005 from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. He recently played free spirited speller Leaf Coneybear in Hot Summer Nights | Theatre Raleigh‘s April 24-May 5 production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and he is scheduled to direct Raleigh Little Theatre‘s Sept. 6-29 presentation of Art.
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