Watching Rebecca Morris play Rosalind in Valdosta State University Theatre & Dance’s production of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” is to be reminded how few versatile stage roles seem to be written for women.
Too often, even the towering female roles seem to be based on a character’s dominance, her guile, her vituperative tongue, her beauty, her grace, her charm.
Rosalind is a character who demonstrates all of these traits, but she also possesses a remarkable mind and a comic wit. She has a brain and uses it. She is a young woman who falls in love without ever taking leave of her senses.
Of course, one irony to Shakespeare’s masterful Rosalind is that she spends a great deal of “As You Like It” pretending to be a man in order to escape the unjust actions of her tyrannical uncle.
Yet, with every turn of the head and turn of phrase, Morris’ Rosalind fills the stage and a wise and watchful audience will be happier for it.
Morris’ preeminence is no easy feat. She shares the lights with numerous able VSU Theatre student performers: Will Stanley has proven himself a gem in past performances and shines all the brighter as Orlando; Charlotte Grady has presented numerous memorable roles during her VSU career and does so again as Celia in this her last university performance prior to December graduation ... one would have to list the entire cast to properly compliment them on their performances, their abilities to bask in their individual moments in the spotlight then working together seamlessly as a team: Ethan Parker, Ryan Stillings, Mike Burson, Khalif Cooper, Michael McClain, Emmanuel Davis, Brandon Haynes, Nicholas Baggarley, Ethan Glass, Pattie Angier, Blake Fountain, Wendell Hester, Tyler Bos, Vaughn Stevens, Josh Duvall, James Burch, Josh Barcol, Sarah Beth Moseley, Clarissa Phillips, Kahlil Barret, Jeremy Person, Josh Duvall, Elizabeth McCullers, Caitlin Miller, Kelsey Russo, Cassandra Stowe.
Yet, it is Rebecca Morris who again and again draws the eye, who elicits the smile, who wins the laugh, who amuses and beguiles. Shakespeare wrote Rosalind as a woman who manages to direct all around her without ever oppressing them. Rosalind has an ability to reveal what is in her heart, what is in the hearts of those whom she meets, and win the hearts of audiences. Rosalind maintains her wisdom in the face of deep love. A rare creature, indeed, and one Morris makes as real an experience as possible where all the world is a stage, when sometimes the players transcend the footlights and take on a life of their own.
VSU Theatre & Dance veteran Jacque Wheeler directs this show with poise and grace, good humor and a light touch. Love is in the air, as light as gossamer but as deep as the heart. She has trained her cast well and she allows this show to find its own rhythms and beats all within Ruth Brandvik’s engaging scenes and lighting, and Esther Iverson’s eye-catching costumes.
Audience should find much to like with this latest VSU production.
This review is based on Thursday’s opening night performance.
Valdosta State University Theatre & Dance’s “As You Like It” continues 7:30 p.m. today, Nov. 9; 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 10; 7:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, Nov. 11-13, Sawyer Theatre, VSU Fine Arts Building, corner of Oak and Brookwood. Reservations, more information: Call (229) 333-5973; or visit www.valdosta.edu/comarts