This year’s summer fare at Raleigh Little Theatre includes their Teens On Stage/Teens Back Stage production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, one of his most performed plays, and one riddled with notable texts such as “All the world’s a stage” and many others. A comedic look at love and marriage, As You Like It takes place, for the most part, in the fabled Forest of Arden, a locale that very well might have been a wood nearby Shakespeare’s birthplace.

I wish to take a moment here to praise and thank the many, usually unmentioned, support personnel that accompany productions such as the one I saw Sunday night. Those who know me know that I walk with a cane these days, and not too swiftly at that. One of the interesting things about this show is that the entire audience, along with Rosalind and Celia, is banished by the usurper Duke, which means we all must leave, which is to say leave the amphitheater where the play begins. From there we journey into the Forest of Arden, RLT’s famed Rose Garden, where chairs line the “stage” for us to view the rest of this show. I was given superb and courteous help from several of this show’s supporters, including an arm for steadiness and a bench upon which to rest. It should be noted that I was totally unprepared for the move, and my journey into Arden took quite a bit longer than did the trip made by the rest of the audience. Along my trip, I was twice offered water, twice asked if I was OK, and one lovely lady generously took my keys and brought my car around so that I may not have to hike all the way back to the parking lot. I was well cared for, start to finish, and I both commend and gratefully thank all those who were so accommodating.

As You Like It is a romp through the garden of the heart; most of the young men’s fancy has turned to love and everyone seems to be in love with someone who is in love with someone else. Our two dominant lovebirds are Rosalind (Bela Gonzalez) and Orlando (Sean Moss). Now, we must remember, to facilitate her journey to the Forest, Rosalind takes on the disguise of Ganymede, a male, so that her traveling about the countryside may be less taxing, both for those she meets and herself as well. But this arrangement causes some unforeseen consequences: her lover, Orlando, spends most of his wooing with Ganymede, who is “instructing” him on how to win Rosalind; and poor Phebe (Laura Lillian Baggett), a shepherdess, falls hard for this young man, who loudly proclaims he will fall “for no woman.” Cleverly (for both the Bard and Rosalind) Ganymede assures Phebe that she will be wed, but we know it will be to Sylvius (Lara Rydesky), not Ganymede. Scorecard, anyone?

The difficulties in performing a show al fresco are legion, first and foremost being that there is no “backstage,” so all the actors are visible to anyone who takes the time to locate them. The stylish and accessible summer house that graces the garden doubled as a green room as well as a stash for a variety of props. From my vantage point, I was able to view a host of cast members as they made their way to and from the shelter, laden with all the paraphernalia required for country living, such as pitchforks and travel bags. Even after so many of my years associated with the theatre, this is still a source of fascination. That the cast was able to avail themselves of such and still maintain their composure is yet another aspect of the actor and his many needs during a show.

RLT’s performance is fleet; director Meredyth Pederson Cooper has honed the script to a swift 90 minutes. To quote a different Shakespearean comedy, “all’s well that ends well” as the lovers are paired off and married. Four couples enter wedded bliss and the dukedom is restored to its rightful owner by a contrite Frederick (Mia Purse), who then takes to a life of religious study. We are then treated to an expanded farewell by the cast, led by Rosalind, who commends the tale to both sexes as a lesson in love.

This cast and its crew take on monumental duties and both sets are to be commended. There is only one overall instruction I might impart: while it might seem as if you are shouting, be aware that there are many people you must reach with your speech, and constant attention to projection must be maintained; if it is not, then all your hard work goes for naught, for we cannot understand you. Breathe, ye lads and lasses, and project!

As You Like It continues through Saturday, July 31. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.