Wednesday, April 20, 2011

As You Like It, Texas State University, San Marcos, April 6 - 16

As You Like It, Texas State University

Marketa Fantova's designs for As You Like It at Texas State University established at a glance the intentions of director Chuck Ney. The action opens at Duke Frederick's court, a bare space at the front of the wide thrust stage, bounded to the rear by a high, chill wall with a blue metallic sheen. That wall initially appears featureless, except for the edifice of steel tubing and dark metal treads parked against it -- the sort of movable ladder one might expect to find in a warehouse. Concealed doors open from that blank wall, including one at the top of the edifice. Characters descend or climb those precarious stairs that sway, suggesting a subtle danger.

The court is equally bare and cold. Young Orlando is angered by the neglect shown to him by his elder, inheriting brother Oliver. Duke Frederick, the ominous usurping head of this city state, stalks onstage accompanying by bodyguards whose chief function is to walk and stalk in step with him.

When the duke's daughter Celia and her banishéd best girl friend Rosalind flee to the forest, the metal barrier vanishes, to reveal a striking, deep stage picture very similar to that depicted on the poster for this production. Fantova has established progressive inclines running from side to side of the stage, usable as steps or as ramps, and she uses cylinders of white semi-lucent fabric to suggest the trees of a grove, perhaps of birches. Although exiled Duke Senior speaks to his band of the "icy fang and the churlish chiding of the winter's wind," their white and blue world, though suggested merely, feels far warmer than that of the court.

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