Rosalind (Lois Anderson), Celia (Luisa Jojic) and Touchstone (Ryan Beil) in AS YOU LIKE IT, Bard on the Beach 2011.

I was very fortunate to be invited to the Grand Opening Celebration of the 22nd season of Bard on the Beach in Vanier Park in Vancouver this past week. The evening was filled with joy and laughter as the audience was lucky enough to see the opening performance of Shakespeare’s comedy, As You Like It, as well as the ribbon cutting ceremony prior to the performance to officially open the new Main Stage BMO Theatre at the Bard site. The night was simply magical from start to finish, and I have now officially deemed Bard on the Beach’s first performance of the year as my kick-off-to-summer theatre experience. As You Like It is the first of four Shakespeare plays showcased at this year’s Bard on the Beach and is playing through straight until the end of September, so there is plenty of opportunity for you to take in this great production as well!

Once again I was relatively naïve to the plotline of the performance and had to rely heavily on the simplified story brief within the production’s program, and in the case of As You Like It, I’m glad I took the time to learn the foundation of the story. The basis of the plot, as per the program:

“In this merriest of comedies, Shakespeare draws on his signature themes of disguise, misplaced affections and pastoral passion. The setting is ripe for romance when Rosalind, daughter of the banished Duke, runs away in disguise with her cousin Celia to the Forest of Arden. There they meet a pair of feuding brothers and Rosalind, who is masquerading as a young man, finds herself uniquely poised to teach her unknowing suitor Orlando the way to win a woman’s heart.”

While that is the absolute simplest form of describing this incredibly hysterical play, it truly encapsulates the base plot of the narrative. There are several incredible storylines and characters intertwined with this base plot designed to enrapture the audience and have them squealing in their seats. Believe me, there was definitely a boisterous laugh (or dozens) coming from my section!

I always enjoy seeing the familiar faces within the Bard family cast, returning for yet another poignant season on this incredible stage, as well as the fresh faces tackling the intricate characters penned by Shakespeare. There were three standout performances that I must shine a light on, as I personally believe without these actors the comedic timing and overall performance would have fallen quite short.

First and the most deserving of praise was the leading lady, Rosalind, played by the hysterically brilliant Lois Anderson. Her mocking portrayal of the male form and mind, while in disguise, trying to woo her true love (Orlando) was simply outstanding. Every time she took to the stage my eyes were instantly drawn to her, eagerly awaiting what she would do and say next. Partnered with her supporting lady, Celia, played by Luisa Jojic, these two could do no wrong. It felt as if these two ladies have spent years acting and working in comedy together, as their timing was perfect and truly made the show a success.

Touchstone (Ryan Beil) woos Audrey (Amber Lewis) in AS YOU LIKE IT, Bard on the Beach 2011.

The second (and equally deserving) standout performance came in the role of Touchstone, played by Ryan Beil. At the end of the performance I was left utterly stunned that this one man was capable of learning and reciting such intricate details of Shakespeare’s writing and execute with his own flair for comedy timing. His random engagements with the audience members further bolstered his presence and abilities on stage, and he too was a mesmerizing force whenever on stage. A final hats-off to his character and the portrayal of his love (and jest) for his to-be bride, Audrey, played by Amber Lewis. His ability to find humor in the simplest of mannerisms and infusing these small, yet brilliant moments into Shakespeare’s words made him an unsung hero in my eyes.

The third noteworthy performance is handed to the character of Silvius, played by Kayvon Khoshkam. There may be a dash of love flowing over from his recent performance in the Graduate, as part of the Arts Club Theatre’s performances, which I took in a few months ago; however, his presence on the stage (in large part to his incredible hair) stood out for me among the rest of the ensemble. He perfectly embodied his character and showcased each nagging flaw to perfection. Plus, he’s damn cute in his photo within the program which further aided in catching my eye! I joke, of course.

Le Beau (Duncan Fraser, background) looks on as Charles (Charlie Gallant) fights with Orlando (Todd Thomson) in AS YOU LIKE IT, Bard on the Beach 2011.

All-in-all, the entire ensemble was outstanding, with each actor perfectly complimenting the rest of the cast on stage. I thoroughly enjoyed the performance and look forward to the rest of the performances throughout the summer. I whole-heartedly encourage you to get tickets now before its too late, and for those of you who have yet to experience Bard on the Beach, this is the year to do it! Shakespeare’s As You Like It will have you laughing out loud, and believe me, a few years ago I never thought I would be saying those words either!

Enjoy!

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