Hale Center Theater Orem
Page Petrucka and Mark Oram perform in Shakespeare's "As You Like It" at the Hale Center Theater in Orem.

"AS YOU LIKE IT," Hale Center Theater Orem, 225 W. 400 North; now through May 23; directed by Christopher Clark; phone 226-8600 (running time 2 hours 20 minutes, with one 10-minute intermission)

OREM — From the moment of entering the theater and getting a glimpse of the beautifully painted forest on the walls, you know this is going to be interesting.

Add that to the introduction of "Brownie" the bear in a Chuck E. Cheese-type outfit, and you get a good sense that it's not going to be Shakespeare in the traditional sense of the word.

However, that's not to say this production departs from the Shakespearean mode so dramatically that those who love the Bard will be unhappy.

The story line — convoluted as it is — follows Rosalind and Celia through their various adventures quite accurately.

The fun comes from the delivery of some of the lines and the posturing of many of the characters, particularly those in masks and animal costumes. (The pigs, the sheep, the goats, the horse, the dog and the snake all add comic relief.)

It's a step outside the usual for Hale Center and a bit of a risk to take with audiences who generally are over 50.

The story is introduced and re-introduced after the intermission, so people unfamiliar with "As You Like It" can keep track as the Duchess kicks out the Duke, keeps Rosalind as a companion for her daughter, banishes Rosalind, who disguises herself as a man and consorts with her beau Orlando as a member of the opposite gender, returns to her father and resolves all the couple issues — a story that twists and turns on its ear with various subplots and characters running through it all the while.

The individual characters are very well-developed and played with depth throughout.

Rosalind, played by Becca Ingram (MWF cast) is outstanding and creates a very sympathetic character. Celia, played by Becky Witham Walling (also MWF cast), is also a choice casting.

Page Petrucka, playing the part of Audrey the shepherdess (MWF), is wonderful and very funny, as is Alice Johnson who plays Phebe. Watch her woeful face as she realizes in the end where her fate in love is cast.

The men playing Orlando (Jason Sullivan, single cast), Jacques (Alex Ungerman, TThS cast), William (Jason Evans, single cast) and the Duke (Eric Glissmeyer, single cast) are also very good.

Davey Morrison (usually in the TThS cast) deserves special mention, as he takes on the role of Le Beau, as well as numerous animals. He is so uninhibited.

The only exception to the rule is Mark Oram (single cast as Touchstone), who needs just a little more mellowing into his role as the fool.

Everyone handles the Elizabethan dialogue well. The lines are understandable and clear. There is no hesitation, no misstep.

The musicians, who are on stage the entire time with a cello and a violin, add a nice touch.

The blocking and choreography is well done for the small stage, especially since movement never stops.

There's clearly been an effort made to keep this show upbeat, light and fast-paced, so people don't lose interest.

In addition, the costuming is — as always — gorgeous. The masks add humor and interest.

So does the interaction with the audience.

This is a show that ought to be given a chance.

E-MAIL: haddoc@desnews.com