Opening Nights: As You Like It

Enchanting elements on a morbid canvas.

A motif of decay appropriately binds the closing comedy of Seattle Shakes' "into the woods"–themed season. Grime conquers the windowpanes at evil Duke Frederick's court, and even his young daughter's and niece's Restoration-era wigs are tinged with ash and gray tones. Patches of old snow linger amid the birch trunks of Craig B. Wollam's set, dashing hopes for warm renewal (we know how that feels!). Upon this morbid canvas is splashed some wonderfully vital acting, including Hana Lass as Rosalind, a role that requires intelligence, energy, and a lightning tongue. Darragh Kennan has become so iconic on local stages that it took some effort to adjust to him as Touchstone, the wise fool who falls for country bumpkin Audrey (Donna Wood). Hannah Mootz gathers a bounty of low-hanging comedic fruit as sneering/swooning/conniving Phebe, who's smitten with Rosalind-as-swain-Ganymede while dodging bumpkin Silvius (David Brown-King).

Directed by George Mount, As You Like It pushes gracefully through its mistaken- identity plot. In brief: Orlando and Rosalind fall in love, two pairs of brothers quarrel, Rosalind hides in drag as Ganymede, lots of crushes develop in the forest, love miraculously fixes character flaws, and there's even an offstage lion attack! All in 165 minutes.

Many of the pleasures here are are auditory, from sound designer Robertson Witmer's interstitial tone poems to original music by local songwriter Sarah McGuinn for guitar, Jon Lutyens' slightly off-key voice, and ukelele. At the height of amorous confusion, choreographer Crystal Dawn Munkers' lovely pas de many illustrates this tangle of romantic attractions and shifting partnerings. Doris Black's costumes do some serious time travel: Celia and Rosalind end their forest adventure in what appear to be Titanic-era togs (perhaps in accordance with sylvan physics). Plenty of enchanting elements here suspend disbelief safely above the perilous late-spring icicles.

 
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