Staunton News Leader
February 10, 2011
Airing a play that hasn't seen daylight in more than 400 years can have a couple of predictable outcomes. It can be a hit, or it can be a reminder of why no one in four centuries has bothered to produce it.
"Look About You," which is the latest offering in the 2011 Actors' Renaissance Season, is, if nothing else, entertaining. While audiences may struggle a bit with the story line, they are quickly absorbed by the vibrant characters, comic setups and utterly ridiculous but captivating series of disguises nearly everyone in the play adopts at one point or another.
The story itself takes place during the late 12th century reign of Henry II. Skink, a murderer, dons multiple disguises to avoid capture. Gloucester, an illegitimate son of Henry, dons multiple disguises to escape Henry's sons and wife, who want to do him in. Gloucester's sister disguises herself as a merchant's wife in order to find out how her fugitive brother is doing.
And then there's Robin Hood, but don't expect Errol Flynn or even Cary Elwes. This Robin Hood is no outlaw, but a nobleman ward of Prince Richard who — you guessed it — disguises himself. Unlike Errol, however, who in the classic film version disguised himself as a very manly tinker to participate in an archery tournament, this Robin Hood assumes the identity of Richard's lady love and uncomfortably, hilariously, fields the prince's amorous advances.
Incredibly, this one-joke feature of "Look About You" doesn't grow tiresome. As one character after another slips into someone else's identity — at one point, two characters wearing the same disguise suddenly come face to face — the comedic value of the play intensifies.
The character of Skink, who masters the most disguises, is played to the hilt by John Harrell. Patrick Midgley is a riot as Robin Hood in drag; Tyler Moss as the feisty, crab-walking Sir Richard Fauconbridge never fails to elicit laughter from the audience; and Chris Johnston, bouncing about the stage like a bug on a hot skillet, is superb as the frenetic, stuttering Redcap.
Jeremiah Davis as a hot-headed Prince John, Gregory Jon Phelps as Prince Richard and Benjamin Curns as Gloucester also give notable performances.
Of course this, like all ASC plays, is a team effort. Contributing to the madness of "Look About You" are Paul Jannise, Allison Glenzer, Jeremy West, Katie Crandol, Miriam Donald, Daniel Burrows, Sarah Fallon and Amanda Knowlton.
"Look About You" isn't good history, and it isn't Shakespeare by a long shot. But it is good theater and the actors have done a bang-up job of interpreting, directing, costuming and acting it. So don't take a chance; see it now. Your next opportunity might be in 2411.
For best seats order Look About You tickets now.
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Friday, October 31, 2014, 7:30 pm
Actors' Renaissance Season