Known for cranking out quality performances from big ensemble casts, Lumina Studio Theatre has done it again, or actually reprised an original hit — As You Dig It, which was first performed in 2006. The company continues to showcase talented young performers and insanely creative designers and pumped enough megawatt energy to rock the house. That’s just what happens with double casting no less, for a show filled with zany characters. An age-appropriate rocking band who performs with flashback zeal remembering the 1960s, and there’s even a Sparky the dog who exudes a calming presence in the chaos.
Set in 1968 San Francisco, the Arden Players Community Theatre is planning to perform As You Like It, despite the new manager’s efforts to sabotage the show. The worse the show is, the better chance he’ll have to snatch up the property for more lucrative real estate financial returns. The players are caught in their own self-inflicted sabotage at every hilarious turn, so many that I couldn’t keep up. Suffice it to say that the characters are bound and determined to perform their roles to the utmost. With over 30 young actors in two casts, each with their own motivations, intentions, and actions, it sometimes felt like a hodgepodge of confusion wondering what’s happening (there’s even a “Who’s on First” schtick in the mix) and what else will go wrong. Add the rock music element and it’s surprising how anything could come together from it. But thanks to the fun-paced script and clear direction by a multitude of directors, it all does. So much, in fact, that the show could just as easily be called All’s Well That Ends Well and the impact would be just as enjoyable and satisfying.
Back to the beginning though, some highlights for the “Teal” cast that I saw, starting with Jasper Jones as the woefully put-upon Stage Manager who vows that no matter what conundrum was thrown his way, he’d “make it work.” Ezra Stern was the “metaphysical dude with the dog” who exuded so much hippy groove that I longed for my old love beads. Other characters included an anti-war Jim Morrison wannabe, leather jacket-wearing Mack the Knife, an adorable duo of entitled Mayor’s kids, and a ROTC trio marching in formation or in battle fatigues ready to fight for a cause. Amid all this lunacy, a stark raving conservative republican playing Orlando finds himself falling for a bona fide progressive rebel playing Rosalind. Before you know it, he’s ditching his starched attire for tie-dye. All’s Really Well for a family show to pull that one off. And that’s a peek into the creative mind and prescient imagination of David Minton, who wrote and presented the show in the days of early aughts.
Like all the other designers, costumer Stacey Hamilton worked double-time to create a full-scale 1960s vibe covering two large casts in flower child attire. While the first act was more informal with characters in rehearsal, the actors performed as their characters in Act 2, a sophisticated feat of layering for young performers. Listening to young people take on the Bard’s text was a treat. Watching their layers of interpretation while dressed in elegant attire was an added thrill.
Lighting designer Hailey LaRoe bathed the set in psychedelic hues of purple, teal, and saffron. Sound engineer Ron Murphy had the nearly impossible task of amplifying young voices while balancing acoustics for the instruments and vocal ensemble who were all on the same level on stage. The band is an amateur bunch assembled for the show but maintained a groovy stance whether strutting on and off the stage, sporting the colorful boas that draped the standing microphones, or warming up the audience with charisma and charm. They brought back memories with their renditions of “Somebody to Love” by Jefferson Airplane, “Happy Together” by the Turtles, “Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by The Byrds, and the ultimate, “Light My Fire” by The Doors, with rambunctious vocals by one of the young performers. After the run, the band even got enough notoriety to secure a holiday gig, so who knows, you might see them jamming around town.
That’s the wonder of Lumina Theatre — they exude such fresh discovery for all aspects of performance and theater that the effect spills over into routine life — and the company has maintained that excitement and energy for 25-plus years. I’ve marveled at the professional caliber of the staging, performances, and design for years and look forward to each season. In Act 2, the Rosalind character is rolled out on a platform make-shift stage where she meaningfully delivers “All the world’s a stage…” The startling image is an apt and fitting reflection of theater immersed in one’s everyday, day to day life. That’s what happens for the young performers at Lumina Studio Theatre. We all can dig it.
Running Time: Two hours and 20 minutes, including a 20-minute intermission.
As You Dig It played on weekends December 9 to 16, 20023, presented by Lumina Studio Theatre performing at the Silver Spring Black Box, 8641 Colesville Rd, Silver Spring, MD.
As You Dig It
Adapted/Written by David Minton
From William Shakespeare
Directed by Sophie Cameron and Meg Lebow
Assistant Directors: Veronica Obler, Sophie Pranio, Caleb Grimes, Evian Guilfoyle, Dev Hoverter, Simon Reich, Lila Shaw, Imogen Talmadge
Choreographers: Ben Broderick-Sokol, Audrey Deane-Gonzalez, Caledonia Marcoux
Costumer: Stacey Hamilton
Set Build: Khalid Afzal
Scenic Artist: Aziza Afzal
Lighting Designer: Hailey LaRoe
Sound Engineer: Ron Murphy
Founder and Guiding Light: Jillian Raye
Band and vocals: “Shakesperience”
David Droddy (vocals, tambourine), Janice Simsohn Shaw (tambourine, upright bass), Gordie Shaw (Bass, guitar, banjitar), Sara Pranio (drums), Julie Grimes (vocals), Helen Droddy (vocals), Kent Marcoux (keys, bass, vocals), Ellen Kennedy (vocals, violin)