CHAUTAUQUA - The Forest of Arden finds its way to the stage of the Bratton Family Theater this week, as Shakespeare's comedy ''As You Like It'' completes the company's 2012 season of performances.
The play is one of the Bard's most popular. While it begins with betrayal and threats, and examines some of the darker things in life, it follows a merry journey, and everyone ends up happy.
The Shakespearean production which ends every season for the Chautauqua Theater Company traditionally utilizes all of the young Conservatory actors who have been both studying and performing through the season. But, and this is one of the things which makes these plays so special, the young actors portray only young characters, and guest artists come in to provide the gravity and grace of the more mature characters.
In this case, John Seidman portrayed the faithful servant Adam, who abandons his security and his comfort, in order to be loyal to his young master, and Andrew Weems portrayed both the betrayed Duke of the plot and the unfaithful brother who has betrayed him. The two men's timing, their bearing and their dignity were a very positive addition to the production.
''As You Like It'' is the story of a duke who has been overthrown by his younger brother, and driven out of his duchy and forced to live in the forest. At almost the same time, Orlando, the youngest of a great nobleman, has been robbed of the inheritance left him in his father's will, by his older brother, and likewise has had to take refuge in the wood.
Eventually, the evildoers repent, the noble are rewarded, and young love triumphs in no fewer than four marriages. Director Jackson Gay has moved the setting of the play from the Renaissance to the 1930s, which made possible the use of the jazz of the period, which is a welcome energizer to all events. Despite playing rather minor roles, musicians Stephen Spencer and Max Roll played a major role in the flavor of the production, and therefore of its success.
Designer Lee Savage has wrought a beautiful bar room in which trees grow up through the floor, making transfers from the Duke's court to the forest, quick and painless transitions, and helps in the forward energy of the play.
Attractive young actors Sepideh Moafi and Leicester Landon spoke cleanly and looked just wonderful, investing much energy into the play's twists and bends.
Jessica Savage was such a soignee and elegant version of the Melancholy Jacques - magically transferred for one production only into a lovely young woman - it made her words all the more listenable and poignant.
I regret not having room for more names, but the whole evening is well spoken, clean and energetic, and everyone on the stage is unusually attractive. It lasts nearly three hours, and is well worth the investment of time.
''As You Like It'' continues through Friday, at varying times in the day or evening.