There is order to the universe. Director Michael Michetti assures us of it in the beautiful As You Like It, his debut production at Glendale’s A Noise Within (continuing in repertory through December 2). Setting his production in impressionist France, when art and nature were finding new ways to relate, Michetti shows evidence of the unseen hands that guide us.
While present, if not predominant, in the scenes at the people’s court (as evidenced by fallen apples that roll into arrangement along an invisible grid), these hands rule the 'natural' world Michetti creates. Here, those who are willing to follow their hearts will wind up arranged into marriage, thanks to Hymen (the acrobatic Andy Butterfield). Though Shakespeare only employs him to handle the play’s final matchmaking, in Michetti’s production this god of marriage is ever present, effecting all sorts of human and natural unity.
Michetti has a really gifted stage actress in Kirsten Potter (also making her A Noise Within debut) as the fair Rosalind. Her every utterance is well articulated while sounding spontaneous. She shows the chemistry from which stars are formed. Complementing her superior sense for language is great physical control and comic instincts. She also seems more than capable, while posing as a male romantic adviser to her own love interest Orlando (Mark Deakins), of hinting at the battle raging between her mind and her heart.
That said, she employs a piercing laugh intended to show Rosalind’s immaturity in love (perhaps sourced in the line “I will laugh like a Hyena”) that seems instead to paint Rosalind as bi-polar. This can’t take away from her top-notch performance, but it seems a choice worth revisiting.
Other standouts in this production are Mark Bramhall, who transforms from French fop to bedraggled farmer; Andrew Ross Wynn, who plays an appropriately hulking Charles the Wrestler as well as a sensitive singer-songwriter in Arden; and Robertson Dean. He gives the dour Jacques the proper aloofness and renders a "Seven Ages" speech with both care and an in-character casualness. Bo Foxworth works hard a creating a period caricature – too hard in his opening scenes. But he settles in fast.
A Noise Within’s designers do more with less. Sibyl Wickersheimer’s set transforms from court to forest. Lanterns in the trees glow orange with the appearance of candlelight. The stage is dappled with tiny circles of light in an impressionistic indication of the forest’s canopy. Angela Calin’s beautiful costumes are regal in the court scenes. They also indicate Duke Frederick’s exiled band have not given up their taste for urban outfits.
Robert Oriol’s music, which turns text into song and provides underscoring, is beautiful and well performed. And the uncredited sound design, which includes subtleties like a hand breaking the surface of a stream and arms stirring the air, is cued perfectly by operator Paula Eagleman and stage manager Liza Tognazzini.
As always, A Noise Within gives Los Angeles audiences an entry point for classic theater. It’s satisfying to see them successfully putting students in seats and holding them in rapt attention. Thanks to the work of Potter and Michetti, this isn't only an As You Like It new audiences will like, but one we'll all remember well.
CREDITS: by William Shakespeare, directed by Michael Michetti, Sibyl Wickersheimer, set; Angela Calin, costumes; Jim Taylor, lights; Robert Oriol, music; Paula Eagleman, sound operator; Lisa Tognazzini, stage manager. CAST J Todd Adams, Ali Ahn, Jordan Bass, Mark Bramhall, Gabi Daci, Albert Dayan, Mark Deakins, Robertson Dean, Bo Foxworth, Dorothea Harahan, William Dennis Hunt, Welton Pitchford, Kirsten Potter, Danica Sheridan, Joshua Snyder, Robert Towers, Steve Weingartner, Andrew Ross Wynn, and Matthew Dieckman, Patricia Herranz, Angelica Shane.
A Noise Within • Previews began October 21, opened October 28, Closes December 2