MONMOUTH – The Theater at Monmouth will open its 35th anniversary season with William Shakespeare’s classic romantic comedy, “As You Like It.”

The play, which is filled with humor, harmless deceptions and happiness, opens Friday, July 2, and runs through Aug. 21.

Set in a “once-upon-a-time” world, characters roam the forest in the dead of winter for survival, but find joy and love as well. Orlando (Dustin Tucker) and Oliver (John E. Bromels) are twins driven into conflict with one another after the death of their father, Sir Rowland.

At the same time, political unrest ensues as Duke Frederick (Bill Van Horn) forces Duke Senior to give up his power. His daughter Rosalind (Sally Wood) is independent and clever, and she and Orlando fall in love upon meeting.

Informed that his brother Oliver means to kill him, Orlando decides to live in the woods to avoid confrontation.

Rosalind is banished from court by Duke Frederick, and she too chooses to live in the forest disguised as a man. She then instructs love-struck Orlando on how to woo her female self.

After directing “Dangerous Liaisons” last season, Lucy Smith Conroy returns this summer as director of “As You Like It.” She has directed numerous shows in New York, as well as plays for regional theaters such as Portland Stage Company. She received the 1999-2001 Bingham Fellowship at Columbia University where she received her MFA.

She calls As You Like It “one of Shakespeare’s great comedies and a deeply moving meditation on the process of falling in love.

It contrasts men and women, court and country, nature and fortune, youth and age. But through it all, it is the deep-seated need to find and form relationships with other people that is the overriding concern of this play.

From romantic love, to family, to community, the characters seek out connections and attachments, forcing us to reexamine the roles those elements play in our own lives.”

“As You Like It” employs many of Shakespeare’s favorite plot twists, including mistaken identities, brothers at odds, and men and women coming together under peculiar circumstances. The set design is by John Story, costume design by Nicole Jescinth Smith and lighting design by Ron Madonia.

“As You Like It” opens on Friday, July 2, at 7:30 p.m. A free opening night celebration with light refreshments will be held at Cochrane’s Restaurant immediately following the show. Regular season performances are July 3, 7, 8, 14, 16 and 21 and Aug. 1, 7 and 21, all at 7:30 p.m. except the Aug. 1 show at 7 p.m. The matinees are at 2 p.m. on Aug. 4, 14 and 18.

The Aug. 1 performance will be followed by a discussion with the cast and crew.

Founded in 1970, The Theater at Monmouth performs in Cumston Hall. In the last several years, this Victorian-style opera house has undergone a $2.5 million revitalization, which has included a new addition, air-conditioning, an elevator, new restrooms and new theater seats. A group of artists and craftsman have been working to restore and renew the theater’s original murals and artwork.

Tickets are $26 for opening night, $22 for general admission, $20 for seniors or matinees and $18 for students. People can order tickets by calling the box office, (207) 933-9999.

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