“All the world’s a stage” is the oft-quoted line from Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.” With at least three productions of the play currently under way in the southern part of the state, Maine theater-goers are certainly not missing out on a chance to hear that bit of wisdom in its proper context.

The Theatre at Monmouth and the Bath Shakespeare Festival will likely do well by the four-centuries-old play. But the focus here is on the Fenix Theatre Company’s take on the romantic comedy, which opened in Portland’s Deering Oaks on Thursday night.

Certainly the venerable park is a fitting location for a play that is set almost entirely in a forest, while the sounds of the surrounding city unavoidably suggest the play’s contrasting of the natural and the civilized worlds.

Peter Brown, who recently played the Bard himself in the Dramatic Repertory Company’s production of “Equivocation,” directs a fine cast of local actors in this play that finds an exiled duke and his followers having a better time than they expected in the Forest of Arden. Brown has abridged the play to fill about 90 minutes and, inventively, has the audience move from one part of the park to another as the theatrical scene changes. He’s also tilted the action more decidedly in favor of the female characters (see the wrestling scene).

The principal romance is between Rosalind, the banished duke’s daughter, and Orlando, a young man given to gushy poetry who’s on the outs with his own family. Kat Moraros and Dave Register take the lead roles. Both were fine at Thursday’s opening performance, but Moraros really took her meaty role, one of Shakespeare’s strongest female characters, and ran with it for an impressive star turn.

Rosalind poses as a man for most of the play and Moraros had no problem jumping the divide between her character’s attempt to portray her idea of what she thinks a man will do and say and the strong but love-struck young woman beneath the disguise. She was great fun to watch as she physically and emotionally transformed from forthright to weak-kneed as she sought to control her passion.


Scenes between Moraros and Ellen Elizabeth White as her cousin and companion Celia were also captivating as they talked their way around their burgeoning womanhood. When Celia finds a guy, White has her fall convincingly to the same giddy fate as her cousin.

Rob Cameron was an early laugh maker as a wrestler out of some B-Movie and later as a hunky bumpkin. The more subtle humor was assigned by the author to Touchstone, here played by Karen Ball. Ball successfully found her way into the fool’s not-so-wacky wisdom while Abbie Killeen, as the cynical philosopher Jacques, secured her place as a sobering wit on the periphery of the action.

Other roles were ably filled in a production that emphasizes the lighter side of a play that can be made to reveal some sharper contrasts. But with the lovestruck couples joyously dancing to lively folk music as the sun sent its last rays through the park on Thursday, this “As You Like It” proved to be one impossible to resist.

Steve Feeney is a Portland freelance writer.

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