ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Shakespeare’s merry-go-round of mismatched lovers orbits at the Aux Dog Theatre next weekend.
“As You Like It” will open in the theater’s newly completed X-Space on Aug. 15, courtesy of the Santa Fe Shakespeare Society.
Considered one of The Bard’s finest romantic comedies, “As You Like It” is the story of four pairs of incompatible and very confused lovers.
Raised at the court of Duke Frederick, Rosalind is close to her cousin Celia (the duke’s daughter). The duke banishes Rosalind, threatening her with death if she appears at court again. Best friend Celia accompanies the cross-dressing Rosalind (she’s dressed as a boy) and their guardian Touchstone, the court fool.
The trio run into Orlando and his manservant, who are fleeing the wrath of Orlando’s brother. Rosalind watches him wrestle a bear and falls instantly in love. She devises an elaborate scheme to discern the verity of Orlando’s passion for her and to further capture his heart in the mischievous facade of Ganymede.
Directed by the Shakespeare Society’s Jerry Ferraccio, the production is ideal for families, Aux Dog producing artistic director Victoria Liberatori said. Set in period, it runs about two hours.
“It’s extremely actor-centered, very much like it was in Shakespeare’s time,” she said. “There’s a minimal set with costumes. It’s very centered in the language; the language is all the special effects it needs.”
Celia falls for Orlando’s brother Oliver, who has plotted to kill his sibling.
But, as often occurs in Shakespeare, the character who had been the villain reforms into a good guy.
Along the way, country girl Audrey falls in love with Touchstone.
“Orlando finds himself with this Ganymede person and he’s completely thrown,” Liberatori said. “Why is it that we fall in love with someone? Is it about gender or some affinity we have with that person? (Shakespeare) was able to make very funny, flawed and extremely opposite personalities and he managed to find a way to bring these into an extremely endearing love relationship.”
Between the flirting and fighting, Shakespeare pens his most famous line with “All the world’s a stage.”
Eventually, Rosalind devises a “love test” for Orlando.
“In her disguise, she tries to instruct him as to what real love is,” Liberatori said. “To me, that’s the main theme.”
Ferraccio, who also plays Touchstone, “lives, eats and sleeps Shakespeare,” she said.
The director also teaches a monthly Shakespeare skills workshop at Aux Dog, using the playwright’s stories to break down a script and dive into character.
Aux Dog artistic associate Jessica Osbourne is Audrey. Osbourne also works behind the scenes on the New Mexico-based TV series “Manhattan.”
Aux Dog’s X-Space is the theater’s third stage, which Liberatori hopes to develop into a black-box theater for minimal staging. There’s floor space for children and teenagers, plus seating for adults.
Written in 1599 or 1600, “As You Like It” performances have featured everyone from Laurence Olivier to Helen Mirren and Kenneth Branagh’s 2006 film version starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Alfred Molina and Kevin Kline.