- As You Like Itby Santa Cruz Shakespeare, and: Merry Wives of Windsorby Santa Cruz Shakespeare
Santa Cruz Shakespeare (SCS), the festival that arose from the ashes of Shakespeare Santa Cruz (SSC), performed two comedies for its inaugural season. In December 2013, University of California-Santa Cruz pulled the plug and stopped funding the former festival, which had been running since 1981. Supporters both local and distant sprung into action, and a campaign raised $1.1 million in three months to establish the independent, forward-funding SCS: they were able to fund the first season on the money raised, and all profits from the inaugural season will go toward funding season two. The new company line-up features many of the same administrators, directors, actors, and designers as SSC; but with a restructured financial model, the support of new advisory board members Sir Patrick Stewart and Olympia Dukakis, and a freer rehearsal [End Page 129]schedule without the restrictions of the UCSC academic calendar, it seems that better times are ahead for Shakespeare in this coastal town. Certainly the new company’s first two productions bode well.
Even a sub-par performance would make for a pleasant evening in a space as beautiful as the Glen, erected as it is in a majestic grove of redwood trees, but these shows were delightful pieces of theater. With an eye to the budget, the scenic designers exploited the gorgeous surroundings as much as possible: it’s useful to have the forest of Arden played by ancient trees (six even grow on stage). The rest of the As You Like Itset featured leaves painted on doors and floors, and alternating black and white banners for the court scenes. The mid-nineteenth-century American setting was primarily evoked through costumes: Arden, in this case, was a sort of Walden, its visitors Thoreauvians returning to nature in order to escape the industrialized world and antebellum manners.
An effervescent Celia (Greta Wohlrabe) dominated the opening scenes, leaving Rosalind—looking dour and uncomfortable in a black corseted dress—very much in her shadow (it was hard to believe Duke Frederick was worried about his daughter getting outshone by her cousin). Wohlrabe’s exuberance, comic timing, husky voice, and bright looks made her the clear star of the entire production. For example, Celia’s suggestion to give herself the clunky name “Aliena” got far more laughs than Rosalind’s “suit me all points like a man” speech (1.3.122, 1.3.110). As Celia and also as Mistress Page, Wohlrabe pulled off that tricky balance between sounding colloquially modern and having command over Shakespearean meter and diction. Though Coffey’s Rosalind was far more engaging once she became Ganymede, she never quite matched the winning charm of Wohlrabe (Fig. 1).
Dan Flapper made a worthy Orlando: he was determined and self-assured. Snappy direction made the opening moments between the lovers suitably awkward. That sparky, awkward chemistry between the two was again on display in the “woo me” scene, which digressed into the “boys” hitting each...