Over the past two weeks, the University Theater department performed two different Shakespeare affiliated shows on a rotating schedule, “As You Like It” and “Love’s Fire.”The shows, while drastically different from each other in terms of structure and language, both explored similar themes and ideas- that of love, and the confusion and mix-ups that can come in both platonic and romantic relationships.
As You Like It, directed by Dr. Leonard Kelly, is the Shakespearean play which first featured the line, “all the world’s a stage.”
The show explores gender roles in its original form, but in the casting at West Chester, these roles were taken even further.
Not only did the script call for women to take on male roles as part of the story, but there were women playing male roles, and men playing female roles, too.
The story has the traditional storyline of “boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl,” with a whole menagerie of other relationships and problems thrown into the mix, including family loyalties and betrayal.
Most of the meetings throughout the play are “chance” meetings, and take place in a rural setting, in the Forest of Arden.
The story of As You Like It follows cousins Rosalind, played by Jackie Read, and Celia, played by Tony Mottola, as they disguise themselves to escape, after Rosalind is forced to flee from her uncle’s court.
Celia goes with her, and they find themselves in the Forest of Arden, where Rosalind’s father was exiled as well. The court jester, Touchstone, portrayed by Douglas Atkins, also joins them.
Orlando de Boys, played by Phil Knasiak, is also forced to flee after being persecuted by his brother, Oliver de Boys, played by Peter Collier.
After a tangled web of relationships and false identities, the play ends with four marriages, including Rosalind and Orlando and Celia and Oliver.
The costuming choices used in As You Like It were quite varied, as there were some characters in traditional and expected Shakespearean outfits, some in “hippie” style clothing and some others in leather outfits complete with futuristic makeup designs.
Dr. Kelly wanted to place the show in a more modern context while keeping the original language.
The choices in costuming were what made the difference in transporting the play into the modern context.
The updated play, intended to be set in the 1960’s, makes the Forest of Arden feel like a hippie commune, giving the chance meeting and multiple relationships that take place a context that makes sense.
In a video promoting the show on the Facebook page, Dr. Kelly notes that it’s about “the construct of love- what love is all about.”
Love’s Fire, directed by Dr. Emily Rogge, is a collection of seven one-acts all based on Shakespeare’s sonnets. While each of the scenes told a totally different story, together they wove a tale more than “love triangle” could ever begin to describe.
All of the separate stories added up to the big picture- twisted and intermingled relationships, playing on both romantic and platonic relationships, and emphasizing that everyone seems to know everyone else.
All of the scenes were performed in modern English, with the sonnet given in its original form at the end of the scene.
The cast of Love’s Fire consists of nine actors, each who play various roles in the different scenes. Each actor appeared in numerous scenes, in different types of relationships which showed their acting abilities.
Every scene is a completely different story, telling different narratives of love and friendship, ranging from an engaged couple the night before their wedding, to a party where everyone seems to know everyone else in some way or another.
Infidelity is also explored, as is a particularly interesting relationship between a psychologist and her patient. The final scene in Love’s Fire begins and ends with all of the cast members trying to decipher Sonnets 153 and 154, which any student who has taken an English class could easily relate to.
All of the music used in West Chester’s production of Love’s Fire was composed specifically for the production here by Dr. Mark Rimple.
Love’s Fire was designed through a concept by Anne Cattaneo, who challenged playwrights to use assigned Shakespearean sonnets to write unique and modern adaptations, and then combined them into a contemporary play which uses both the modern adaptations along with the original Shakespearean text.
Both shows were performed on the stage in the Madeleine Wing Adler Theatre, with the audience also on the stage.
For the production of As You Like It, the audience surrounded the stage on all four sides, while Love’s Fire had the audience lining three sides, while a jazz trio, made up of Julie Hall (piano), Charlie Muench (bass) and Ryan Connors (percussion), filled the fourth side.
The set changes in both shows were also unique.
Because the set of Love’s Fire was built directly on top of the set for As You Like It, and both needed to be accessible on alternating days, they consisted largely of wooden boxes in various shapes that couple be used in a number of different ways, depended on how they were combined.
The scenes for Love’s Fire were set by the actors as they moved around in the scenes, while those for As You Like It were set by cast members in Shakespearean outfits and blank face masks.
These masked cast members also took on the duty of playing parts of the set in a number of different scenes.
Jenn Rothstein is a third year student majoring in English. She can be reached at JR649299@wcupa.edu.