REVIEW: As You Like It (Chicago Shakespeare)


An ardent Arden blooms beautifully


Orlando (Matt Schwader) surprises Rosalind (Kate Fry) with a kiss after she and Celia (Chaon Cross) praise his wrestling victory at Court, in Chicago Shakespeare Theater's 'As You Like It'. Photo by Liz Lauren.

Chicago Shakespeare Theatre 
As You Like It
Written by William Shakespeare 
Directed by
Gary Griffin
at CST’s
Courtyard Theatre, Navy Pier (map)
thru March 6  |  tickets: $44-$75  |  more info

Reviewed by Lawrence Bommer

Through disguise or intrigue, Shakespeare’s driven lovers test each other until they finally earn their fifth-act wedding. In As You Like It, an unconquered forest is the neutral playground for the romantic reconnoiters that will bind the exiled lovers Rosalind and Orlando. In this shelter for simple innocence, artificial privilege defers to natural merit.

The shepherdess Phoebe (Elizabeth Ledo) falls in love with Ganymede (Kate Fry), unaware "he" is actually Rosalind in disguise, in Chicago Shakespeare Theater's As You Like It. Photo by Liz Lauren.If love, joy or melancholy were to vanish from the world, you could reconstruct them from Shakespeare’s merriest and wisest comedy. The play’s genius is its artful dispersion of the good and, later, bad characters from the corrupt court to the enchanting trees of Arden. There the Bard imagines the perfect play–and proving ground for Rosalind, strategically disguised as the bisexual cupbearer Ganymede, to test her Orlando by teaching him how to woo the woman he takes for a man.

Sensing how Rosalind’s high spirits and good humor could overwhelm even this teeming forest, Shakespeare balances her natural worth against the snobbish clown Touchstone, the darkly cynical Jaques and the sluttish goatherd Audrey. By play’s end every kind of attachment–romantic, earthy, impetuous and exploitive–is embodied by the four (mis)matched couples who join in a monumental mating.

All any revival needs to do is trust the text and here it triumphs. Vaguely set in the Empire era, Gary Griffin’s perfectly tuned three-hour staging moves effortlessly from the artificial wood façade of the bad Duke’s cold palace to Arden’s blossom-rich, Pandora-like arboreal refuge. Over both the city and country hangs a mysterious pendulum, tolling out the seconds without revealing the time.

Disguised as the young man Ganymede, Rosalind (Kate Fry, center) listens to Orlando (Matt Schwader) unwittingly proclaim his love for her as Celia (Chaon Cross) looks on in amusement, in Chicago Shakespeare Theater's 'As You Like It'. Photo by Liz Lauren.

But then time stands still here: The refugees in these woods have been displaced by the pursuit of power. Very good, then: It gives them all the more leisure for four very different couples to reinvent love from the inside out with all the unmatched and dynamically diverse eloquence that the Bard could give them,

Griffin is an actors’ director and he’s assembled an unexceptionable ensemble as true to their tale as their wonderful writer could wish. Though a tad older than Orlando is usually depicted, Matt Schwader delivers the non-negotiable spontaneity of a late-blooming first love. Above all, he’s a good listener and here he must be: Kate Fry’s electric Rosalind fascinates with every quicksilver, gender-shifting mood swing, capricious whim, resourceful quip or lyrical rhapsody. Fry also plays her as postmaturely young, a woman who was happy enough to be a maiden but won’t become a wife without a complete guarantee of reciprocal adoration. All her testing of Orlando as “Ganymede” is both flirtatious fun and deadly earnest. It would be all too easy to watch only her throughout and see this again for the other performances.

Kate Fry as Rosalind (Ganymede) and Matt Schwader as Orlando in William Shakespeare's 'As You Like It', directed by Associate Artistic Director Gary Griffin at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Photo by Peter Bosy.The contrasting characters are a litany of excellence, with even the supporting actors attractive despite any lack of lines. Kevin Gudahl’s noble exile of a banished duke, Matt DeCaro’s elaborately evil one, Phillip James Brannon’s flippant and almost anachronistic clown Touchstone, Chaon Cross’ pert and well-grounded Celia, Patrick Clear’s dignified bumpkin, Steve Haggard’s infatuated Silvius and Hillary Clemens as his less than adorable Audrey, Dennis Kelly’s venerable Adam—these are masterful portrayals drawn from life as much as literature.

Shakespeare’s most brilliant creation is the anti-social Jaques, who darkly balances the springtime frolic of Shakespeare’s unstoppable love plots. Oddly social as he waxes with misanthropic melancholy, Jaques is cursed to see the sad end of every story: He can never enjoy the happy ignorance beginning and middle. Ross Lehman gives him the right enthusiastic isolation. He’s dour but never dire.

Arden is a forest well worth escaping to and never leaving. The most regretful part of the play is happily never seen, when this enchanted company must return from these miracle-making groves to the workaday world. But that’s just how the audience feels leaving the Courtyard Theatre, reluctantly relinquishing so much romance.

Rating: ★★★★

Celia (Chaon Cross), Touchstone (Phillip James Brannon) and Rosalind (Kate Fry), disguised as the young man Ganymede, celebrate their arrival in the Forest of Arden, in Chicago Shakespeare Theater's 'As You Like It'. Photo by Liz Lauren.

Chaon Cross as Celia, Kate Fry as Rosalind, and Matt Schwader as Orlando in William Shakespeare's As You Like It, directed by Associate Artistic Director Gary Griffin at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Photo by Peter Bosy


Production Artists



Phillip James Brannon

Patrick Clear

Hillary Clemens

Chaon Cross

Matt DeCaro
Duke Frederick / Sir Oliver Martext

Josh Doucette
Ensemble Intern

Kate Fry

Kevin Gudahl
Duke Senior

Steve Haggard

Nathan Hosner

Dennis Kelly

Elizabeth Ledo

Ross Lehman

Andrew Mueller

Andrew Neiman
Le Beau / Lord to Duke Senior

Jeff Parker

Mark Richard
Dennis / Lord to Duke Senior

David Schlumpf
Ensemble Intern

Matt Schwader

Austin Talley
Lord to Duke Frederick

Steve Wojtas
Lord to Duke Frederick / Jacques de Boys

   All photos from CST’s cast webpage



Creative Team


Gary Griffin (Director/Associate Artistic Director)

In Gary Griffin’s tenure at Chicago Shakespeare Theater has directedPrivate Lives, Amadeus, Passion, A Flea in Her Ear, A Little Night Music, Sunday in the Park with George, Pacific Overtures, The Herbal Bed, Short Shakespeare! A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Short Shakespeare! Romeo and Juliet. Broadway directing credits include The Color Purple (11 Tony Nominations including Best Musical) and The Apple Tree (Tony Nomination for Best Musical Revival). Off Broadway credits include: Saved (Playwrights Horizons); The Apple Tree, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Pardon My English, The New Moon(Encores); and Beautiful Thing (Cherry Lane Theatre). Tour credits include the national tour of The Color Purple. London credits include Pacific Overtures at the Donmar Warehouse (Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical Production and Olivier Award nomination for Best Director). Regional credits include work with: The Old Globe, McCarter Theatre, Alliance Theatre, Signature Theatre and Hartford Stage. His Chicago credits with Court Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Apple Tree Theatre, Writers’ Theatre, Marriott Theatre, Drury Lane Oakbrook, Pegasus Players and Famous Door Theatre have earned him eight Joseph Jefferson Awards for directing. Mr. Griffin’s directing credits include critically acclaimed productions of West Side Story at Stratford Shakespeare Festival, and The Merry Widow and Gilbert and Sullivan‘s The Mikado (our review ★★★★) at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Kevin Depinet (Scenic Designer)

Kevin Depinet returns to Chicago Shakespeare Theater, where he designed scenery for The Emperor’s New Clothes. Other Chicago credits include: August: Osage County (Associate Designer), Detroit, American Buffalo, Dublin Carol (Steppenwolf Theatre Company); The Crowd You’re in With, High Holidays, Mary (Goodman Theatre); What the Butler Saw (Court Theatre); Oh Coward!, Do the Hustle (Writers’ Theatre); Miss Saigon, Thoroughly Modern Millie and Ragtime (Drury Lane Oakbrook). Regional credits include: American Buffalo (McCarter Theatre); Another Part of the Forest, The Comedy of Errors (American Players Theatre); The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Illinois Shakespeare Festival); My Name Is Asher Lev (Milwaukee Repertory Theatre); and Around the World in 80 Days (Indiana Repertory Theatre). Mr. Depinet has worked on Michael Mann’s film Public Enemies. He studied at Ball State University and The Yale School of Drama, and is now an adjunct professor of design at DePaul University.

Mara Blumenfeld (Costume Designer)

Mara Blumenfeld returns to Chicago Shakespeare Theater, where her credits include: A Flea in Her Ear (Jeff Award), A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures at CST and Donmar Warehouse, London (Olivier nomination), Sunday in the Park with George and Short Shakespeare! productions of Romeo and Juliet (2003) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2001–2003). Other Chicago credits include productions with: Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Court Theatre and Lookingglass Theatre (Ensemble Member). New York credits include: Metamorphoses (Circle in the Square, Second Stage); The Glorious Ones (Lincoln Center); The Notebooks of Leonardo DaVinci (Second Stage); Measure for Measure (Joseph Papp Public Theater/NYSF); and Homebody/Kabul (BAM). Regional credits include productions with: Seattle Repertory Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Mark Taper Forum, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, McCarter Theatre and Arden Theatre Company. Opera credits include: Lucia di Lammermoor, La Sonnambula (Metropolitan Opera), and The Merry Widow (Lyric Opera of Chicago). Upcoming projects include Camelot (Stratford Shakespeare Festival) and Ethan Frome (Lookingglass Theatre Company).

Christopher Akelind (Lighting Designer)

Christopher Akelind returns to Chicago Shakespeare Theater, where his credits include: Othello, Measure for Measure and Antony and Cleopatra. Other Chicago credits include: Rock ‘n’ Roll (Jeff Award ), Shining City, The Light in the Piazza (Jeff Award), Electricidad (Goodman Theatre); Twelfth Night, The Piano (Court Theatre);Superior Donuts, The Pillowman, Homebody/Kabul (Steppenwolf Theatre Company); and Die Entführung aus dem Serail (Lyric Opera of Chicago). Recent work includes: the Broadway productions of Superior Donuts, Top Girls and 110 in the Shade; Kdo!(Brussels, Belgium); Virginia, The Golden Ticket, and Hubicka for Ireland’s Wexford Opera Festival; and Martha Clarke’s revival of her Garden of Earthly Delights at the Minetta Lane Theatre. Mr. Akerlind is the recipient of the Chicago area’s Michael Merritt Award for Design and Collaboration, an Obie Award for Sustained Excellence in Lighting Design, and numerous nominations for the Drama Desk, Lucile Lortel, Outer Critics Circle and Tony Awards.

Joshua Horvath (Sound Designer)

Joshua Horvath returns to Chicago Shakespeare Theater, where he designed sound for The Wizard of Oz. Other Chicago credits include work with: Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Court Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre Company (Artistic Associate), About Face Theatre, Next Theatre, TimeLine Theatre, and The House Theatre of Chicago. Off Broadway credits include Clay(Lincoln Center). Regional credits include productions with: The Kennedy Center, Center Theatre Group, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Hartford Stage, Centerstage and Long Wharf Theatre. Mr. Horvath teaches sound design for theatre and film at Northwestern University and is co-owner of Aria Music Designs, LLC. He is a four-time recipient of the Joseph Jefferson Award and an LA Weekly Award nominee.

Ray Nardelli (Sound Designer)

Ray Nardelli returns to Chicago Shakespeare Theater, where his credits include: King Lear, The Wizard of Oz and Romeo y Julieta. Other Chicago credits include productions with: Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Court Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Drury Lane Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre Company, Victory Gardens Theater and Congo Square Theatre. Off Broadway credits include Lookingglass Alice at The New Victory Theater. Pre-Broadway credits include The Addams Family, All Shook Up and Light in the Piazza. Regional credits include productions with: McCarter Theatre, Long Wharf Theatre, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Hartford Stage, Alliance Theatre, Buffalo Arena Stage, Alley Theatre, American Theater Company, The Gift Theatre, Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival, Shakespeare on the Green and Skylight Opera Theatre. Mr. Nardelli has recorded, mixed and produced CD’s for the musicals Oh Coward!, The Sound of One, La Luna Muda andHillbilly Antigone, and has over 400 film, TV, DVD, and computer game credits worldwide. He has received four Jeff Awards and seven additional nominations.

Jenny Giering (Original Music)

Jenny Giering makes her Chicago Shakespeare Theater debut. Other Chicago credits include The Mistress Cycle (Apple Tree Theatre and New York Musical Festival). Off Broadway credits include Alice Unwrapped (The Zipper Factory). Regional credits include: Crossing Brooklyn (The Boston Music Theatre Project, The Transport Group and The Beautiful Soup Theater Collective); and Saint-Ex (Weston Playhouse Theatre). Ms. Giering’s awards include: The National Art Song Award, The Dramatists’ Guild Jonathan Larson Fellowship, the Constance Klinsky Prize from Second Stage Theatre Company, and the Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation Award. She was named the Clifton Artist in Residence at Harvard University and Composer in Residence at The Sundance Institute Theatre Program playwrights retreat at UCross. Ms. Giering is currently at work on a new commission for Playwrights Horizons.

Melissa Veal (Wig and Make-up Designer)

Melissa Veal has designed wigs and make-up at Chicago Shakespeare for over 40 productions, including: Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, Private Lives, Richard III, Twelfth Night, Macbeth, Amadeus, The Comedy of Errors, Othello, Passion, Troilus and Cressida, The Three Musketeers, A Flea in Her Ear,Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 (at CST and the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon), Much Ado About Nothing, The Molière Comedies, A Little Night Music, Rose Rage: Henry VI Parts 1, 2 and 3 (at CST and The Duke on 42nd Street), all four CPS Shakespeare! productions and as wig supervisor for The School for Scandal. Regionally Ms.Veal designed wigs and make-up at Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival. She worked with the Stratford Festival for 10 seasons, where she received four Tyrone Guthrie Awards, including the Jack Hutt Humanitarian Award. Other Canadian credits include work with: Rhombus Media, The Shaw Festival, Mirvish Productions and The Grand Theatre in London, Ontario. Ms. Veal received the 2007 Hurkes Award for Artisans and Technicians.

David Woolley (Fight Director)

David Woolley returns to Chicago Shakespeare Theater, where his credits include: Peter Pan, Henry V, Antony and Cleopatra, Cymbeline, King John, Troilus and Cressida, Macbeth and Short Shakespeare! A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Recent Chicago credits include: Billy Elliot (Ford Oriental Theatre); A Streetcar Named Desire(Writers’ Theatre); and The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity (Jeff Award, Teatro Vista/Victory Gardens). Off Broadway credits include The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity (Second Stage) and Edmond (Provincetown Playhouse). Regional credits include:Julius Caesar, Lysistrata (Guthrie Theater); Norma and Wanda (Oakland Press Award),Escanaba in da Moonlight and Duck Hunter Shoots Angel (Purple Rose Theatre Company). Mr. Woolley is co-creator and performs as Guido in Dirk & Guido: the Swordsmen!, now in its 21st year. He is a Senior Lecturer at Columbia College Chicago and Fight Master with the Society of American Fight Directors.

Matt Raftery (Choreographer) 

Matt Raftery returns to Chicago Shakespeare Theater, where he appeared as Peter in Peter Pan. Other Chicago choreography credits include: The Music Man, My Fair Lady, The Bowery Boys, Les Miserables, Sleeping Beauty (Marriott Theatre); Funny Girl (Drury Lane Theatre); The Christmas Schooner (Theatre at the Center); A Wonderful Life (2006, Porchlight Music Theatre); and Oliver! (Illinois Theatre Center). Regional choreography credits include: Carousel, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Brigadoon, Oklahoma!, Pirates of Penzance (Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre); and Sideshow (The Colony Theatre Company). Acting credits include Beauty and the Beast on Broadway, the first national tour of Show Boat, and numerous regional productions.

All bios obtained from Chicago Shakes’ bio webpage.


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