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PCPA's As You Like It is downright lovable

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Love isn't just in the air, it's in the trees, too, during the Pacific Conservatory Theatre's (PCPA) hopelessly romantic take on William Shakespeare's As You Like It.

Centered on a quirky band of forest dwellers cast out from society, the play follows multiple love-stricken characters, one of whom proclaims his admiration with dozens of love letters handwritten on fallen leaves.

There's a lot to like, and even more to love, about As You Like It, directed by one of PCPA's resident artists, Emily Trask. It's a liberating dramedy that will make you wonder why you haven't already tried retreating into a forest yourself.

MASTERS OF DISGUISE After Rosalind (Jennie Greenberry, bottom) and her cousin, Celia (Christen Celaya, top), decide they no longer want to be part of Queen Frederique's noble court, they hatch a plan to disguise themselves as peasants and flee into the nearby forest of Arden. - COURTESY PHOTO BY LUIS ESCOBAR, REFLECTIONS PHOTOGRAPHY STUDIO
  • Courtesy Photo By Luis Escobar, Reflections Photography Studio
  • MASTERS OF DISGUISE After Rosalind (Jennie Greenberry, bottom) and her cousin, Celia (Christen Celaya, top), decide they no longer want to be part of Queen Frederique's noble court, they hatch a plan to disguise themselves as peasants and flee into the nearby forest of Arden.

Although a handful of heroes share the stage, the show's primary protagonist is Rosalind (Jennie Greenberry), the daughter of a wrongfully exiled monarch and niece of the corrupt ruler who dethroned her. These feuding siblings are male dukes in Shakespeare's original text but have been switched to sister queens, Queen L'ainee (Polly Firestone Walker) and Queen Frederique (Kitty Balay), in PCPA's iteration.

After Rosalind and her cousin, Celia (Christen Celaya), decide they no longer want to be part of Frederique's noble court, they hatch a plan to disguise themselves as peasants and flee into the nearby forest of Arden. The duo convince Frederique's court jester, Touchstone (George Walker), to accompany them as well.

EXCELLENT ENSEMBLE The cast of PCPA's production of William Shakespeare's As You Like It includes Jennie Greenberry, Christen Celaya, George Walker, and Yusef Seevers (pictured from left to right). - COURTESY PHOTO BY LUIS ESCOBAR, REFLECTIONS PHOTOGRAPHY STUDIO
  • Courtesy Photo By Luis Escobar, Reflections Photography Studio
  • EXCELLENT ENSEMBLE The cast of PCPA's production of William Shakespeare's As You Like It includes Jennie Greenberry, Christen Celaya, George Walker, and Yusef Seevers (pictured from left to right).

The show's program describes As You Like It as one of Shakespeare's most musical masterworks, and—based on my viewing of PCPA's adaptation—I wouldn't call that an overstatement. The play is not a musical in the traditional sense, but the original text features several songs (lyrics only) by Shakespeare, which have been set to music composed specifically for this production.

Once Rosalind, Celia, and Touchstone acquaint themselves with other free-spirited inhabitants of the forest, live music becomes an integral part of the story. Characters begin to find themselves frequently singing or playing instruments, including guitars and accordions. But Touchstone's hand-cranked hurdy-gurdy is the most memorable.

HURDY-GURDY MAN The cast members of As You Like It frequently find themselves singing or playing instruments, including guitars and accordions. But Touchstone's (George Walker, pictured) hand-cranked hurdy-gurdy is the most memorable. - COURTESY PHOTO BY LUIS ESCOBAR, REFLECTIONS PHOTOGRAPHY STUDIO
  • Courtesy Photo By Luis Escobar, Reflections Photography Studio
  • HURDY-GURDY MAN The cast members of As You Like It frequently find themselves singing or playing instruments, including guitars and accordions. But Touchstone's (George Walker, pictured) hand-cranked hurdy-gurdy is the most memorable.

George Walker steals the show on several occasions with the unique instrument—and during his nonmusical jester antics. The comic relief comes in handy between the melancholic musings of forest resident Jaques (Mark Booher), who recites one of Shakespeare's most famous and profound speeches.

"All the world's a stage. And all the men and women are merely players," Jaques proclaimed. "They have their exits and their entrances. And one man in his time plays many parts."

Booher is perfectly pensive as Jaques, among a large, lively ensemble of equally excellent performers. Other standouts in the cast include Yusef Seevers, who plays Orlando, who, like Rosalind and Celia, fled a noble status for a new life in the forest. Orlando falls in love with Rosalind before his retreat, and doesn't realize that one of the forest occupants he befriends, Ganymede, is actually Rosalind disguised as a man.

The show's director, Trask, said in press materials that she's seen plenty of incarnations of As You Like It as an audience member and has acted in a handful as well. But she's never approached the material from a director's standpoint, until now.

"Every time I encounter As You Like It, I somehow fall even more in love with it. It reveals something new to me each time I step into it—not unlike a forest," Trask said in press materials. "After the confines and pressures of the past two years, escaping the oppressive court to the forest of Arden, where we can breathe, be in communion with one another, and experience the healing power of nature, is something I think all of us can relate to deeply in this moment." Δ

Send handwritten notes on fallen leaves to Calendar Editor Caleb Wiseblood, or email him at cwiseblood@newtimesslo.com.

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