Shakespeare’s fantasia to love and transformation, As You Like It. I conjure you to leave your cynicism at the door and indulge in our romantic comedy soufflé.

As the title implies, the intent of this play is to delight. We watch as a series of unexpecting men and women become cupid’s victim, falling head over heels in love at first sight. Shakespeare starts his tale in the court, or civilization, and shows nature at odds with itself; two sets of brothers irrationally usurping the other, and a father banishing his niece and daughter. We then shift to the Forest of Arden, or nature. Not only does this dual setting allow Shakespeare to indulge in the ever popular Elizabethan genre of the pastoral comedy (think “The Simple Life,” “Honey Boo Boo” or “Duck Dynasty”) in which we laugh at, empathize with, and learn from “rural folks”, it also allows Shakespeare to challenge our notions of the natural order and human behavior.

400 years after Shakespeare, our current culture wars over gender and sexuality show we are still asking the same questions: what is nature, what is nurture and what is simply chance, or for As You Like It “Fortune.” Would you fall in love or lust after someone different if you were alone in the forest? Is our behavior when in love innate, or is it based on preconceived notions of romance dictated by culture?

How much is gender an aesthetic artifice and where does desire lie under all of the morality, hair and make-up? Is marriage in accord with nature, or does it need a supernatural force to sustain it?

In the form of Rosalind, it delights me to think Shakespeare is presenting his female Hamlet, a displaced princess of reason. It is believed that Hamlet and As You Like It were written at the same time, and it is through the adventure of this extraordinary heroine and her astounding mind that we not only come to understand love in all of its complexity, but experience reason losing itself to folly in the face of love.

I have always believed that jamming Shakespeare into the twentieth century two act format is a disservice to his plays and the audience. In homage to the festival spirit of Shakespeare’s theatre, we present our As You Like It in five acts with interludes. Please feel free to stretch your legs, use the bathroom, check in on Facebook, and enjoy the entertainment before you. Sit back, relax and rollick with us as we ramble through the Forest of Arden, tottering between the sacred and profane, and mad with love.

For something completely different, I hope you will return to see this same group of thirteen men take on Shakespeare’s Richard II, a political drama with some of the greatest dramatic verse poetry ever written. This rarely performed history play will blow your mind.

Alex Burns