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`AS YOU LIKE IT' A MERRY SPRINGTIME ROMP

Four weddings . . . but no funeral.

That's the upshot of this Shakespearean comedy classic in a production that marks an important turning point for one of the Salt Lake area's best small, not-for-profit ensembles.StageRight TheatreCompany has moved into a new home. And the historic, turn-of-the-century chapel that's now owned by the Realms of Inquiry Private School appears to be the perfect setting for this energetic troupe.

StageRight's credo is "classic theater at a classic price." You won't find expensive scenery and a lot of elaborate costuming, but, just as in "As You Like It," you'll get a pleasant evening of fine performances.

"As You Like It" is a larger-than-usual effort for SRTC. There are nearly 30 different characters, requiring a sizeable cast, although some roles are small enough that a few performers are able to fill two or three parts.

Maybe Shakespeare doesn't elicit as many guffaws as Neil Simon, but the plot is full of merry mixups and spring-is-in-the-air romance.

Director Beth Bruner keeps things moving at a rapid, but smooth pace. With a couple of minor exceptions, the performances were right on the money.

Jansen Davis (StageRight's artistic director and one of its founding members) portrays Orlando, a good-natured chap who falls madly in love with Rosalind, played by Annie Kleczkowski, who proves that she's just as adept at romantic comedy as she is with gut-wrenching drama - as she did in Salt Lake Acting Company's recent "Keely and Du").

Orlando and Rosalind are the central couple in Shakespeare's whirlwind of romantic madness.

Orlando's elder brother, Oliver (Brian Smith), evolves from angry villain to love-smitten pussycat after he meets Rosalind's cousin and closest friend, Celia (nicely played by Angela-Marie Kearns).

Couple No. 3 is court jester Touchstone and the slightly bawdy, country wench Audrey. Touchstone gets a properly spirited performance from Warren Holz, and Audrey is played robustly by director, Beth Bruner.

Also on hand for the finale's quadruple nuptials are lovesick shepherd Silvius and the co-quettish shepherdess Phebe, who also has a crush on cute young Ganymede . . . unaware that this boy is really Rosalind in disguise. Barclay Tucker portrays Silvius, with Robin Murdock as Phebe.

Some other noteworthy performances include Hazel Rowe as both Anna, an overworked peasant, and as one of the minstrels; Dave Farnsworth as Duke Frederick's appointed wrestler, Charles; Chad Wainwright in three roles (Duke Frederick, Will and Jacque de Boys); Donna K.W. Johnson as Lady Amienne, and Wayne Schmidt as both Duke Senior and Sir Oliver Martext.

One particularly effective touch is the use of original music by Jacob Bruner, including Johnson's show-stopping solo of "Blow, Thou Winter Wind."

SRTC follows one admonition of the Utah Shakespearean Festival with "As You Like It" - the use of extremely simple scenery. In fact, there were times I had to refer to my program notes just to see where things were taking place. At least Shakespeare's glowing language didn't get lost in a bombardment of scenery, as some overly produced shows are wont to do.

There are a lot of excellent scripts out there, for shows that were big hits during the 1930s, '40s and '50s, along with Shakespearean classics. StageRight is one of the few companies willing to tackle these on a regular basis - and the theatergoing community is richer for it.

I'm looking forward to the troupe's next production of "Arsenic and Old Lace," July 8-Aug. 19.

- Sensitivity rating: There's a little Elizabethan bawdiness, but it's fairly inoffensive. Young children may lose interest halfway through (one young family left before Act 2 when their kids became restless).