A Classic Shakespearean Comedy
The Chicago Shakespeare Theatre at Navy Pier manages to combine an extravagant and lavish, while at the same time still very intimate, theatre setting with professional acting performances in every production shown. However, the production of As You Like on March 5, 2011 perhaps best exemplifies these significant qualities crucial to Shakespeare plays. Directed by, Gary Griffin, the production is able to captivate the entire audience for the complete duration of the play through its brilliant illustration of spectacle as well as strong narration. However, the most significant factor of the production would undeniably be its inclusion of an alliance of narrative, dramatic, and spectacle elements all intertwined in the overall production. Griffin depicts a traditional Shakespearean comedy with the use of vivid set design and perfect actor selection in the production of As You Like It in a way that separates the comedic production from any other previous Shakespeare play I have seen. The production does so by being able to masterfully combine Shakespearean comedic elements with deeper connotations about self-identity and the power of love crucial to all productions of As You Like It. The thematic elements prevalent throughout the production are contemporary in regards to all Shakespearean comedies in that the play revolves around mistaken identity, the many forms of love, and the resolutions of all misunderstandings in the end of the play. However, the way in which Griffin’s overall production is able to enthrall the audience through brilliant acting, audience inclusion, and beautiful theatre design in such a way that the audience isn’t forced to exert much personal imagination makes As You Like It a classic example of an ideal Shakespearean production.
The Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, the producing theatre for director Gary Griffin’s adaptation of As You Like It, is a professional theatre venue and company located on 800 East Grand Avenue in Navy Pier. The theatre is ornately designed with the intent to transform the audience’s connotation of setting and to make them believe/ give the appearance that they are in an actual Shakespearean Theatre without the use of their imagination. The theatre space used for the production of As You Like It is called Jentes Family Auditorium and features a total of 510 seats on three levels surrounding the courtyard theatre’s “thrust stage”. This specific theatre was modeled/ designed with inspiration coming directly from the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Swan Theatre, evident at first glance, and thus creates an immediate intimate relationship between the actors, stage/ set design, and the entire audience seated around the three sides of the stage. While part of the set is elevated as a “stage”, the entire area/ space of the theatre is used by the actors throughout the production; when this is incorporated with the fact that no seat is more than thirty feet from the stage, a feeling of intimacy between actors and audience is ever-present. For instance, the audience is engaged into the action of the play immediately by the way in which the stage extends through the middle of the first-floor seating allowing the appearance/ feeling of the actors walking directly out into the middle of the audience members.
In an analysis of the overall production of As You Like It it is evident that even though the set, stage, and use of props and vivid images are riveting, the inclusion of an “all-star ensemble” of some of Chicago’s finest actors is truly the underlying nature in exemplifying the statement that the production is indeed Shakespeare’s “glorious romantic comedy”. The actors play courtiers, clowns, philosophers, and locals all who are under the classic comedic spell of the trials and conquests of love as the main character, Rosalind, must disguise herself as a boy in order to escape the royal court. The characters, following Rosalind’s lead,...
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