Shakespeare with a Twist

20May10

Wakefield, Massachusetts is well-represented in Quannapowitt Players show

The cast of “The Curate Shakespeare As You Like It,” the current Quannapowitt Players production, features three Wakefield actors portraying actors playing multiple roles in As You Like It. Wakefield resident Donna Corbett also directs the play-within-a-play.

Wakefield’s Hugh Metzler exhibits a measure of dry wit as the exasperated Curate, attempting to lead the reluctant ragtag troupe in a production they seem ill-prepared to tackle. Elizabeth Sheeran (playing Audrey, among others) and Brian Sensale (Amiens, et al) round out the Wakefield contingent in a cast that also features Shawn Maguire of Reading, Kathy Dalton of Andover, Karen Dervin of Burlington and Shayne Doherty of Medford.

A central theme of the play is the famous “All the world’s a stage” speech from As You Like It. One line from the speech, “And one man in his time plays many parts,” is literally true for the performers in the current QP show.

The premise requires the QP cast to portray seven bad actors attempting to play the more than 30 roles in Shakespeare’s comedy, As You Like It. Naturally, they are constantly switching roles and switching back and forth between Shakespeare’s characters and the actors playing Shakespeare’s characters. The result is a creative exercise that must have been as challenging for the cast and crew as it is for the audience.

It helps to have a passing familiarity with As You Like It, a tale of mistaken identities which follows its heroine, Rosalind, as she flees persecution in her uncle’s court. Accompanied by her cousin Celia and Touchstone, the court jester, Rosalind finds safety and love in the Forest of Arden.

Then again, it may not help all that much to know the original Shakespeare play. Early on, the players discuss the difficulty and casting problems of seven actors playing 30 roles. “It’s all very confusing,” the actor playing William says at one point in Act II. Imagine what it’s like for the audience. In one scene, the actor playing Rosalind steps out of character and says to the audience, “Do you ever find yourself pretending to understand something that went right over your head?”

The best approach to viewing “The Curate Shakespeare As You Like It” may be to accept that it’s ok for the audience to be as confused as the actors playing actors, and just enjoy the show for the silly romp that it is. And there’s certainly plenty to enjoy, even beyond the Shakespeare, including lines that will make you chuckle, if not guffaw. Some of the best lines are the caustic asides muttered by the cast as they try to execute “As You Like It.” There’s even some local color inserted for good measure, as when the Curate entreats the cast to stay focused. “Let’s keep this thing going,” he admonishes the actors. “I’ve got a Harrow’s chicken pot pie in the oven!”

The period costumes are nicely done and the dance sequences are well-choreographed, especially given the tight quarters. Also worth mentioning is the a cappella singing of Karen Dervin.

In all, another worthy effort from a local community theater organization that defines dedication and versatility. To give you an idea of how dedicated and versatile they are, the actors on stage weren’t the only ones playing multiple roles. The play’s director, Donna Corbett, was seen directing traffic in the QP parking lot before Saturday’s show along with choreographer Chip Sheeran.

The “Curate Shakespeare As You Like It” runs through May 29 at Quannapowitt Playhouse, 55 Hopkins St., Reading. For show times and tickets go online at http://www.qptheater.com/ or phone 781-942-2212.

[The Curate Shakespeare As You Like It, by Don Nigro. Directed by Donna Corbett. Choreographer, Chip Sheeran. Stage Manager, Judy Forgione. Lighting Design, Bruce Pennypacker. Sound Design, Chip Sheeran. Starring Hugh Metzler, Kathleen Dalton, Karen Dervin, Elizabeth Sheeran, Brian Sensale, Shawn Maguire and Shayne Doherty.]

(Photo by Jon Sachs.)

This review originally appeared in the Wakefield Daily Item.

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