Saturday, April 30, 2011

"The Water Principle" (staged reading) - Firehouse Theatre Project, 2011

The Water Principle
by Eliza Anderson
Firehouse Theatre Project, Richmond, VA
April 2011

This staged reading was my second time approaching Eliza Anderson's 1992 play, the first being a 2005 reading at Virginia Commonwealth University. In the previous iteration, two of the same actors were used; this time I cast a third actor rather than performing in it myself.

The Water Principle is a fairly obscure play, having been produced professionally fewer than a dozen times. It tells a very simple story with unadorned language: a woman named Addie lives in a shack on a dying piece of property, defending her land from a homicidal real estate developer named Weed when a drifter named Skimmer arrives and upsets the fragile balance. Everyone plays everyone against everyone else to get their simple goals. It's an acting teacher's dream: each character has very straightforward goals and a variety of tactics they use to get them, from brute force to seduction to logic to offers of food and water. The script reads a bit like Shepard with all of the adjectives edited out, with a healthy dollop of absurdism in places.

My 2005 Addie and Skimmer, Sarah Jamillah Johnson and Jeffrey Cole, respectively, reprised their roles in this staged reading, joined by Richmond's most beloved actor, Scott Wichmann, as Weed. We focused on the characters' three very different perspectives on faith: Addie believes in the existence and importance of her underground river completely and without question, and is willing to do anything to protect it. Weed believes only in what he can do with his hands, whether it be to build a wonderland or kill, and no action is to terrible for him to contemplate. Skimmer believes in nothing, preferring not to think beyond his next meal, and just wants everyone to get along. By the end of the play, Addie is a martyr, Weed a killer, and Skimmer has finally made a decision.

The set was a simple trio of chairs UR, with the actors always present in the space, stepping forward when they were in the scene. DL sat the narrator, Stacie Rearden Hall, reading Anderson's stage directions with a storyteller's tone. With no lighting changes, we ended each of the play's 20+ scenes with a snippet of music by Sam Phillips, the perfect atmospheric and lyrical complement to the play's desolate environment.The actors froze in their moment of scene-ending interaction, then returned to their seats while Stacie established the next scene.

Scott is a very busy actor, and was only available for two rehearsals, so our production was simple out of necessity. I opted to eschew blocking of any complexity in favor of setting up simple rules, focusing on the play's beautiful language and the wonderful abilities of my actors to create human connections, and then allowing the actors the freedom to follow their impulses. The result was a production called "surprising and delightful" by the reading series' producer, and "beautiful and fascinating" by the Artistic Director.

All photos courtesy of Stacey Mills of Green-Eyed Photography

Addie (Sarah Jamillah Johnson) "could get more relaxed." Skimmer (Jeffrey Cole) is too hungry.

Addie doesn't want to hear what Weed (Scott Wichmann) has to say.

Weed paints a picture of a Wonderland.

Addie and Skimmer.

Skimmer and Weed become "partners."

Addie talks to her river.

Addie sits with the Narrator (Stacie Rearden Hall) as the final scene unfolds.

Weed gives Addie a lollypop so she'll listen.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

"The Comedy of Errors" - Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, 2010

The Comedy of Errors
by William Shakespeare
Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, Conway, AR
June-July 2010

Comedy was the biggest production of my career to date (though it will be surpassed in a few months by Arkansas Shakespeare’s As You Like It), and the best opportunity I’ve ever had to collaborate with larger-scale design teams. AST’s performance space, Reynolds Hall at the University of Central Arkansas, is a 1200-seat proscenium road house, an enormous amount of space to fill. Fortunately, the company of Comedy was up to the task.

Comedy is a fairly simple play despite its byzantine plot twists; most of the characters are fairly one-dimensional, and the script reflects the simplicity of early Elizabethan comedy. The more I read it, the more the Antipholus-Dromio dynamic reminded me of early twentieth century comedy teams: Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, the Three Stooges, and the Marx Brothers. When I came to the Antipholus-as-Bugs-Bunny / Dromio-as-Daffy-Duck comparison, the show started to gel in my mind. My rubbery, athletic lead actors, Paul Major as both Antipholuses and Josh Rice as both Dromios, embraced this idea whole-heartedly, making a challenging rehearsal process playful, joyful, and completely successful.

The most common stage direction in the play is “Antipholus beats Dromio,” and masters beating their servants isn’t nearly as funny to us now as it was to Shakespeare’s contemporaries. Creating a cartoonish environment served to defuse any potential seriousness to the violence. That idea led to a “those were the good old days” aesthetic for the entire production, an idea rooted in the script’s own hearkening to classical Roman comedy. In our case “the good old days” were less an accurate retelling of the early twentieth century and more what we imagine those golden times were like based on our grandparents’ stories and our occasional glances from Turner Classic Movies. We used somewhat stereotypical character representations to reinforce older-fashioned storytelling techniques; the Duke as a benevolent mafia don, Dromio in a golf caddy outfit, and cartoonish costumes, physicalizations and voices for the secondary characters. A pair of non-speaking vaudevillians (Joe Carlson and Stephanie Love Olson) added atmosphere and helped link the more disparate elements of the show together.

Set designer Doug Gilpin and I came up with a forced-perspective set representing an old Southern town square set on an angle, with a Civil War memorial in one corner and the buildings’ roofs set on Chuck Jones-y angles. The memorial statue and the balcony of the sisters’ house were both climbable, giving my athletic lead actors many levels to scale and hang on. Shauna Meador devised a color scheme for the costumes that resembled nothing so much as a pack of highlighters; bright argyles illuminated the stage, and she created iconic looks for the extreme cast of types and tropes I demanded, from beat cop to sea captain to drag queen courtesan. Ken White’s lighting brought the shapes and colors popping off the stage, and told the passage of the day’s time with clarity and beauty. Joe Carlson’s fight choreography was as vital as any other element, establishing the non-threatening comic nature of the violence.

For the reveal of the twins, I used a similar technique as I had two years earlier for the five-actor As You Like It, having actors in the twins’ vicinity hold empty hats in the air to represent the non-speaking Antipholus or Dromio. The two actors playing the twins frantically ran from place to place, ducking underneath hats to switch characters, masterfully changing dialects and physicalities instantaneously. This artifice, simple in idea and challenging in execution, would never have worked with lesser actors.

Josh Rice said of our rehearsals: “This is just a great ensemble process. Every idea the actors have is on the table, and every one is respected, but we all know whose hands are on the wheel.” This is perhaps the finest compliment I’ve ever received from a collaborator, as Josh beautifully described the process I shoot for. This was in many ways the most successful production with which I have ever been involved, in that each member of the company, from design through performance, was empowered to bring their best ideas and work to the process. In the end, The Comedy of Errors must be considered the most complete realization of a vision in my directing career.

The Comedy of Errors was performed in repertory for the duration of the 2010 Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre. It played in Reynolds Hall at the University of Central Arkansas.

The town musicians and vaudevillians sing "Babes in the Woods" for Aegeon. The old man is quick to realize that this is not a song to cheer a father looking for his lost children. L to R: Stephanie Love Olson, Dan Matisa, Joe Carlson (on the floor), Caleb Keese, Tom McLeod. 

Antipholus (Paul Saylor) has tangled with the wrong merchant (Greyson Lewis).

Dromio (Josh Rice, center) enlists the help of two traveling vaudevillians (Joe Carlson and Stephanie Love Olson) to describe his master's madness.

Adriana (Katie Campbell) has neither the time nor the patience for Dromio (Josh Rice) to enjoy balloon animals made by a vaudevillian (Joe Carlson).

Dromio (Josh Rice) is understandably challenged by his master Antipholus (Paul Saylor)'s luggage. The sea captain (Caleb Keese) is unconcerned.

Dromio (Josh Rice) and Antipholus (Paul Saylor) were not expecting this kind of Courtesan (Brian Hamlin) to emerge from the Centaur.

Luciana (Paige Martin Reynolds) doesn't know what to make of musical-theatre-style romantic overtures from her brother-in-law Antipholus (Paul Saylor).

Old Aegeon (Dan Matisa) tells his tale of woe supported by impromptu puppetry from the vaudevillians (Joe Carlson and Stephanie Love Olson).

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: "The Bard would breathe easy at the Arkansas Shakespeare Festival’s Comedy of Errors - provenance is given short shrift. No, this production is a mixed bag of 17th-century story and 19th-century American Old West set pieces; costumes that range from three-piece suit to busty form-fitting sweater to argyle sweater; a beat cop, a nun, a man in drag?  Director Andrew Hamm threw everything in the old playbook out but the lines and the jocund intent and scored big. Not only is the festival’s Comedy of Errors a salutatory show, it makes a wonderful introduction to Shakespearean theater for those in need of it.... The production brims with howling slapstick and some surprise camp, then manages to finish on a tender moment. "

Arkansas Times: "There are a lot of things to like about Shakespeare, not least of which is the flexibility of his plays. The Arkansas Shakespeare Festival's production of 'The Comedy of Errors' has certainly taken advantage of this flexibility to come up with a loudly colorful and goofily anachronistic show.... That’s another part of this show that’s executed very cleverly — rather than use separate actors for each twin, requiring greater suspension of disbelief from the audience, there’s only one actor for both Antipholuses and both Dromeos. The problem of the twins confronting each other in the final scene is craftily resolved in a gag that stays in line with the wackiness of the rest of the show.... It’s an amusing bit of Shakespeare, to be sure, and if you want to expose your kids to the bard but don’t think that 'Henry V,' the Festival’s other option, is quite the right entry point to his oeuvre, 'The Comedy of Errors' will work just fine."

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" - Richmond Shakespeare Festival, 2009

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
by William Shakespeare
Richmond Shakespeare Festival
July 2009

Richmond Theatre Critics Circle award winner:
“Best Acting Ensemble”

The summer re-staging of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was different from the previous year’s As You Like It re-mount in that this production featured exactly the same five-actor cast as the previous. We had an abbreviated rehearsal process, mainly for purposes of re-blocking for the smaller outdoor stage at Agecroft Hall, but also to fix a few moments that were awkward or unfunny. We also took the opportunity to re-design the five smaller fairies, going from hand puppets to larger, more impressionistic tangles of wood and vine shaped vaguely like animals’ heads. The look was better, and more in keeping with the elemental nature of our fairies, but the actors didn’t have as much time to work on the different puppeteering skills needed for the new design, so the idea wasn’t as fully realized as I’d hoped.

But that was a minor quibble in comparison to how much tighter, crisper, and more specific this production became. Under the open sky, with audiences five times what we’d previously seen (every performance was sold out), and with J. David White’s gorgeous lighting to separate city from wood and day from night, the show came much more deeply alive. We added bass and a full drum kit to the band, making the music more dynamic and dramatic, particularly for the climactic “Through the House Give Glimmering Light,” accented by onstage smoke and the fairy King and Queen standing on a rotating platform.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream sold out for all five of its performances (three were rained out—and sold out) at Agecroft Hall.

Photos coming soon!

Richmond Times-Dispatch: "One-line review: I laughed so hard at Richmond Shakespeare's new production of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' that I got a headache.... Andrew Hamm directs this time, pushing the comedy and mayhem way past any previous boundaries of taste, propriety, reverence for the Bard and other annoyances. We have here a cell phone and a drag queen, imitations of William Shatner and Christopher Walken, a Macbeth-worthy Scottish accent and a half-witted Starveling with a stick. It's just nuts. Hamm uses the company's customary five-actor approach, which guarantees craziness as two men and three women take on 21 roles, switching dizzily from one part to another with just a change of hat or vest.... Richmond Shakespeare moves its indoor season to Center Stage in the fall. I hope the place is well-built, because this company might bring down the house -- with laughter."

Style Weekly: "Sensual is the word that summarizes the Richmond Shakespeare Festival’s version of 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream,' Shakespeare’s ode to love. It is steamy yet playful, capturing the giddiness of young lovers and proving my companion’s point that 'Shakespeare is all about hooking up.' But this show is not just for grown-ups; several children in the audience thoroughly enjoyed themselves, laughing often while the sexual innuendo sailed harmlessly overhead.... The five-player ensemble -- Sandra Clayton, Brandon Crowder, Stacie Rearden Hall, Kerry McGee and Adam Mincks -- displays remarkable versatility and physicality as they play 22 human and mystical characters with Richmond Shakespeare’s trademark modern-day adaptations.... there is not a better way to spend a midsummer night."

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" - Richmond Shakespeare Theatre, 2009

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
by William Shakespeare
Richmond Shakespeare Theatre
April 2009

Richmond Theatre Critics Circle award winner:
“Best Acting Ensemble”

Having been involved with several productions of Midsummer over the years (as actor, costume designer, and twice as composer), I was very eager to bring a unique stamp to this production based on my great familiarity with the show. Like As You Like It the year before, this would be a show so acclaimed that it was revived for a summer run. Unlike As You Like It, both runs were the same five-actor cast. The process was the most ensemble-focused of my career, beginning with the casting of actors who had demonstrated ability to contribute to an artistic vision. In many ways, once I established the world of the play I felt more like a ringmaster than a director in our early days, cursed with the awful responsibility of choosing between brilliant options.

I decided early on that the key to this production would be establishing the godlike power of the fairies, playing on the Zeus-Hera mythology attributed to Oberon and Titania. With minimal tech and costumes, I relied heavily on the actors’ ability to create non-human personas for these characters. Titania (Stacie Rearden Hall) was a tall, majestic tree-like creature, Puck (Kerry McGee) a rolling, crawling bundle of attention deficit disorder. Oberon (Brandon Crowder), mightiest of all Shakespeare’s characters, never moved like anything human, sliding and scuttling and striding alternately, commanding the space in a panoply of animal images. His magical influence was a flick of the finger, a wave of a hand, a breath from his lips, his voice languorous and seductive. The five fairies were reduced to hand puppets to give their superiors scale.

The magic of the love-juice, more than just affecting the lovers’ affections, changed their personalities. Lysander (Crowder), formerly romantic and brave, became a whiny emotional wreck; Demetrius (Adam Mincks) went from awkward social ineptitude to awkward exaggerated heroism. The argument scene was a whirlwind of action, violence, and weight-sharing, with Lysander and Demetrius alternately competing for Helena and cooperating to shun Hermia (McGee). Credit is due to the fearless four actors playing these roles, none of whom shied away from the extreme physicality I required of them. At several points, Hermia was literally crawling over and around the standing Lysander. The entire cast had a remarkable ability to simply try anything asked of them without fear or hesitation.

The single set piece was a rolling platform the size of a small bed. Like As You Like It’s bench, the platform was city on one side, forest on the other. It supported action of a romantic and violent nature, sometimes both at once.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream ran for four weeks and was Richmond Shakespeare’s final production in the chapel at Second Presbyterian Church.

Photos coming soon!

Richmond Times-Dispatch: " 'A Midsummer Night's Dream,' Richmond Shakespeare Theatre's final production of its indoor season under the direction of Andrew Hamm, roars delightfully into its raucous conclusion, which includes a play within a play and a wedding celebration.... This 'Dream' features a tight-knit and lovable ensemble. Some of the casting contrasts are startling and ingenious.... Shakespeare's words, juxtaposed against modern-day clothing and props, and in the hands -- and mouths -- of this enthusiastic and zany cast made 2½ hours in uncomfortable chairs in an overheated chapel fly."

Style Weekly: "There was a moment during Richmond Shakespeare’s 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream' when I literally could not stop laughing. Near the play’s end, the sheer lunatic brilliance of director Andrew Hamm’s off-kilter rendering of the Shakespeare classic reached such a fever pitch that I found myself lost in the sea of silliness. I would have been more embarrassed about my guffaws if there weren’t several others in the audience doing the same thing.... Hamm’s inspired cast pushes every envelope available.... This 'Dream' sings."

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" - Richmond Shakespeare Theatre, 2008

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
by William Shakespeare
“Midsummer in December” staged reading
December 2008

It had long been an ambition of mine to begin a staged reading series with Richmond Shakespeare, and I was finally given the opportunity to do a trial performance as a fundraiser. I was able to assemble a company featuring some of the city’s most beloved acting talent, an all-star cast peppered with a few talented newcomers.

With only two rehearsals, staging was of necessity simple. Actors were restricted to music stands, but were encouraged to use the stands creatively, moving them around, hiding under them, and adjusting heights as they moved from stand to stand. The veteran nature of the cast meant that they could be given enormous liberty, resulting in hilarious improvisation and at least one minor in-performance injury.

A narrator (Audra Honaker) was added with new, modern text to clarify the action. She also put the love juice tokens on the characters enchanted by the flower, represented by plastic headbands with heart-tipped antennae.

The success of the “Midsummer in December” fundraiser inspired a full production of the show the following Spring, as well as a monthly staged reading series that continues to this day. It was performed in the chapel at Second Presbyterian Church.

"As You Like It" - Richmond Shakespeare Festival, 2008

As You Like It
by William Shakespeare
Richmond Shakespeare Festival
July 2008

Buoyed by a triumphant run in Richmond Shakespeare’s downtown venue, As You Like It moved outdoors for a limited two-week run at historic Agecroft Hall, a Tudor mansion relocated from England to the banks of the James River in the 1920s. The company was inflated from its original five to fifteen, necessitating a change in focus from small-cast frenetic energy to something larger-scale.

The tech remained largely the same, with the turning-benches enhanced with actual tree bark on their forest sides. The Agecroft stage, erected annually in the manor’s courtyard, is a small (16x20) thrust that struggled to contain the energy of the fifteen actors treading its boards. Doors up right and up left provided the main entrances, as well as voms leading through the floor seating into the downstage corners and a wide curtained opening up center. City entrances used the doors, country ones the voms, and the curtained area was used for meta-theatrical storytelling moments. The costumes were refinements of the downtown costumes, no longer needing the simplicity of quick-change fastenings.

The initial challenge was to bring ten new actors into roles that had already been very successfully portrayed by the five actors still in the company. We tackled this in two ways: first by bringing Julie Phillips, my Doctor Faustus collaborator, to serve in a co-directing capacity with fresh eyes, and second by emphasizing anew the ensemble generation of performance text. The new actors had new ideas (as did the old ones), and very few of the original production’s moments and “bits” were considered sacrosanct.

A couple big new ideas were added. To enhance the feel of the forest, actors who weren’t in the Arden scenes donned camouflaged ponchos and stood in as trees. (The slight sob of the weeping willow as she stood in place was a highlight, as was the Virginia creeper slowly clawing his way across the back wall.) And we used the curtained upstage area to act out in pantomime scenes that characters described, such as Orlando (Patrick Bromley)’s battle with the lion (Liz Blake), Oliver (Danny Devlin)’s wooing of Celia (Julia Rigby), and the evil Duke (Michael Dunn)’s abdication.

The scope of the production was much larger with the larger company, culminating in an enormous wedding celebration complete with traditional dances: all four couples sang “In the Springtime” while alternating the Chicken Dance, Electric Slide, Macarena, and even the Soulja Boy for the four choruses.

As You Like It had a limited run of eight performances at Agecroft Hall.

Celia (Julia Rigby) listens as Oliver (Danny Devlin) tells his story of redemption. Photo by Eric Dobbs.

"Ganymede" (Sunny LaRose) carries "Aliena" (Julia Rigby) to the Forest of Arden, with precious little assistance from Touchstone (Adam Mincks). Photo by Eric Dobbs.

Touchstone (Adam Mincks) is "married badly" by Sir Oliver Mar-Text (Danny Devlin) to Audrey (Jennifer Vick), who is outfitted for the blessed occasion. Photo by Eric Dobbs.

The always-graceful and ladylike Phebe (Liz Blake) spurns the love of Silvius (Jake Allard). Photo by Eric Dobbs.

"If this be so, why blame you me to love you?" Silvius (Jake Allard), Phebe (Liz Blake), and "Ganymede" (Sunny LaRose) reach the climax of Shakespeare's complex love rectangle. Photo by Eric Dobbs.

Richmond Times-Dispatch: "Midsummer may be nearing, but the peak of the summer theater season at Agecroft Hall has just arrived.... In the lovely Tudor courtyard, Richmond Shakespeare Festival's reprise of "As You Like It" is a laugh-filled, updated take on the Bard's comedy.... [They] create a show that is full of contemporary style and plays hard for every laugh.... [Hamm] infuses the proceedings with all the subtlety of a Judd Apatow film. There's a strong physical component, whether comedy or combat (or spitting), and an especially clever use of upstage plays-within-the-play that enact some of the major speeches while they are delivered."

Style Weekly: " 'As You Like It' is a charming, funny production that bears the unique, often unexpected flavor that Richmond Shakespeare has spent 23 years stewing."

"As You Like It" - Richmond Shakespeare Theatre, 2008

As You Like It
by William Shakespeare
Richmond Shakespeare Theatre
April – May 2008

Richmond Theatre Critics Circle award nominee:
“Best Play” and “Best Director”
Richmond Theatre Critics Circle award winner:
“Outstanding Achievement in Costumes”

Richmond Shakespeare’s specialty for many years has been five-actor productions of the Bard’s plays. For comedies, in particular, this provides fabulous opportunities for actors to exercise all of their skills in creating external character, but with the added challenge of keeping everything honest and grounded. Richmond Shakespeare chose to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the company’s first five-actor Shakespeare production of As You Like It with a new staging.

In casting the show, I selected actors who had experience in extremely collaborative or ensemble pieces, or who demonstrated a strong collaborative spirit in auditions or callbacks. Each actor played at least four roles, and all but one played his or her opposite gender, accentuating the script’s gender-confusion motif. Unlike many of my previous directorial efforts, this one was not heavy on an essential concept or theme. It’s not that there weren’t themes explored (such as family and the country-city divide), but I chose instead to focus more strongly on the characters, text, storytelling, and the sheer delight of these five gifted actors tackling all of the roles in this wonderful play.

Costume designer Rebecca Cairns’ work was essentially the entire tech for the show. The base palate was a very courtly, sophisticated 1920s cricket match style, but the denizens of Arden wore more earthy tones and textures, many with vegetation apparently living on their clothes and bodies. Base costumes were adorned with a character-indicating piece or two; Orlando (Patrick Bromley) put on a wreath of flowers to become Audrey, Celia (Julia Rigby) removed her skirt to reveal Silvius’ breeches. These pieces were designed for rapid changes, as some actors had to play multiple characters in the same scene. Character changes were usually accomplished with the assistance of one or more other actors, but the action was continuous; a problem getting a vest on would happen in character as the scene continued. All costume changes happened in full audience view.

The stage was two levels, an upper stage with a baby grand piano right, five chairs up center, and a costume rack up left, with a lower stage at audience level peaking in a mild thrust. A quartet of coat racks dotted the playing space, providing the actors with a variety of places to set their costume pieces. A pair of benches on the lower stage area were turned and tilted to form logs, making the only transition from city to country life. Lighting was universal, allowing a lot of playful direct audience address, primarily from Touchstone (Adam Mincks) and Jaques (Frank Creasy). When not in the scene (which was seldom), the actors watched the action from seats up center. I also composed music, which was played live from my position at the piano.

The show’s greatest challenge was the need for four actors to play two quartets of brides and grooms in the final scene (the fifth actor, playing Jaques, was not included in this coupling extravaganza). The key to this moment, and indeed to the entire production, was in refusing to see the challenges of a small cast as a limitation, instead finding the unique delight in it. When Jaques referred to each couple in turn, the actors would tear off one costume piece, dart to the area of the stage indicated, put on the new piece, and snap into their new character and relationship. What began as the production’s biggest “problem” scene became its signature moment, and the frenetic energy bled into the audience’s reaction.

As You Like It performed a four-week run in the chapel at Second Presbyterian Church, and was one of the most acclaimed productions in Richmond Shakespeare’s history. The production received three nominations for the inaugural Richmond Theatre Critics Circle Awards: Best Play, Best Director, and Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design, for which Rebecca Cairns won. Its popularity resulted in a revival production the following summer, with the cast increased to fifteen. The fifteen-actor version had its charms and challenges, but the five-actor template was simply magical.

Silvius (Julia Rigby) is rebuffed in his attempts to woo Phebe (Adam Mincks). Photo by Timothy Wood.

Audrey (Patrick Bromley) falls for the citified charms of Touchstone (Adam Mincks). Photo by Timothy Wood.

"Ganymede" (Sunny LaRose) instructs Celia (Julia Rigby) how to properly officiate at a wedding while Orlando (Patrick Bromley) looks on, bemused. Photo by Timothy Wood.

William (Sunny LaRose) seems impervious to threats issuing from the mouth of Touchstone (Adam Mincks). Photo by Timothy Wood.

Style Weekly: "Director Andrew Hamm has done a masterful job of choreographing a vibrant, witty homage to this prototype of romantic comedy.... The many characters who romped through the forest of Arden, celebrating the rites of spring with music and dance, could threaten to get mixed up — especially considering the multiple identities already at work within the story — but there was an ease and confidence to the production that precluded any disorientation."

Richmond Times-Dispatch: "As is the company's frequent practice -- at least for its indoor season -- costume pieces are hung in plain sight, so that when Mincks, hilarious here in numerous roles, goes for that skirt, we know that something even more delicious is coming. Director Andrew Hamm (who is onstage as accompanist) has infused the production with physicality and music, his trademarks.... With nonstop energy and an approach to language that is colloquial and deceptively relaxed, Hamm has created a rollicking version of this classic. Every actor is superb, especially considering the demands of their many roles.... This is as I like it."