The St. Mark’s Players on Capitol Hill is starting its 30th season with a play that’s more than 400 years old. Yet, they present it with a freshness and lightness that makes it seem as young as the company.
That “As You Like It” is one of Shakespeare’s most performed plays owes to its whimsy and romance, its rural splendor and its occasional profundities: lines like “All the world’s a stage” and “the fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”
For a volunteer effort, the St. Marks Players have a real knack at presentation and the production by Alexis Truitt and directed by Heather Cipu hinges on some strong leads, especially Caroline Schreiber as Rosalind, the woman who goes in disguise by fitting her hair up in a hat, and Derek Brockbank as the man who pursues her.
The character may be so blinded by love that he fails to recognize her with hair under the hat; but for that matter, neither can her own father see past that slight alteration. I guess, it’s the same kind of blindness that prevents people from seeing Superman as simply Clark Kent without glasses.
Schreiber succeeds in her role through an intelligence and wisdom that comes through her character; playing it as slightly older than some of the young women who have played the role in the past, it is more believable that this charm comes from world’s experience. Brockbank, too, acts like a man who knows what he wants and is not merely dumbstruck with love.
…present with a freshness and lightness that makes it seem as young as the company.
There are other standouts in the large cast, including Josh Canary as a brash and lively Touchstone, and an exuberant Rachel Watson as a maid besotted with Rosalind’s alter ego. It’s a trifle silly, of course, that just about the whole cast falls instantly in love with someone else by its end (spoiler alert), but it’s really no more silly than a season of TV’s “The Bachelor,” in which the women are instantly hypnotized by the guy giving out roses. Perhaps, it’s the woods that are doing the enchantment and causing all this coupling up.
For the set, director Cipu has Cameron Lane and Rosemary Lane go simple, with an interior court switching easily to the pastoral with a back projection and a bit of wall on wheels. But a certain stateliness to the set may also be because of its church location, beneath the vaulted ceilings of the 19th century Gothic Revival structure, with light coming dimly through its rich stained glass windows. An inspiration for generations in its Capitol Hill setting, the building is also a fine setting for the Shakespeare and the hard work of its current players. But then again, as we have learned, all the world’s a stage.
Running time: Two hours, with a 15 minute intermission.
As You Like It plays at St. Marks Episcopal Church, 118 Third St SE, Washington D.C., through Jan. 26 For more information call 202-546-9670 or visit online.