The cast of “The Curate Shakespeare As You Like It” is, from left, Dawn Alexander, Wesley Vollmer, Tara Dupont, Donna Behrens, Ben Heintz, Zack Wiedenhoeft and Marissa Wilson LaJambe. The comedy arrives Friday at the Port Angeles Community Playhouse. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/For Peninsula Daily News)

The cast of “The Curate Shakespeare As You Like It” is, from left, Dawn Alexander, Wesley Vollmer, Tara Dupont, Donna Behrens, Ben Heintz, Zack Wiedenhoeft and Marissa Wilson LaJambe. The comedy arrives Friday at the Port Angeles Community Playhouse. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/For Peninsula Daily News)

Shakespearean ‘escape from reality’ to open Friday

Performances at Port Angeles Community Playhouse through July

PORT ANGELES — The rag-tag posse is about to make magic.

Tossed into the playhouse vat are these ingredients: Shakespeare and his sense of humor; actors and crew who are neurotypical and actors who are on the autism spectrum, and a story about breaking into, as in burglarizing, a theater to put on a show.

This is “The Curate Shakespeare As You Like It,” written by Don Nigro and staged by director Anna Andersen and her cast at the Port Angeles Community Playhouse.

The show opens Friday and runs through July 28, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Tuesdays, and matinees at 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are available at pacommunityplayers.org and at the door of the theater, 1235 E. Lauridsen Blvd., half an hour before each showtime.

Andersen, who has worked with autistic and other special-needs actors and crew for many years, said this production is mainly frolic, with plenty of quirks mixed in.

The characters put on a play within a play, poking fun at Shakespeare and interacting with the imaginary audience.

Or is it imaginary?

“The Curate Shakespeare” is all about “making magic with your ‘weaknesses,’ and learning to trust your strengths,” Andersen said.

Tara Dupont, who plays the title role, said one of the joys of this show is the sheer freedom Andersen gives her.

“I got cast, and I’m not confined to any gender. She didn’t tell me to be this or be that. I’m the Curate,” Dupont said, and thus can create the role in a way nobody else could.

Andersen is herself enchanted by the cast. Ben Heintz, who was Prospero in the Shakespeare in the Woods (SITW) production of “The Tempest” eight summers ago, portrays the Clown in this show.

Wesley Vollmer, who was in SITW’s “The Taming of the Shrew” in 2019, plays William.

“It’s wonderful seeing how far they have come: Two of my Shakespeare kids, all grown up,” Andersen said. “I’m in heaven.”

She then touted the mother-daughter team of Donna Behrens and Dawn Alexander, who play Celia and Audrey, respectively. Berhens is always coming up with new nuances, while Alexander, her daughter, is whip-smart with an impressive grasp of Shakespeare, the director said.

Completing the cast are seasoned actor Zack Wiedenhoeft as Amiens — whom Andersen calls “amazing” — and Marissa Wilson LaJambe, who gets to use her singing abilities as Rosalind.

The crew building the world around the players are assistant director and stage managing mentor Melody Todnem, stage manager Sarah Winters, prop master Jaymie Crafts and production designer Richard Stephens.

This play, Andersen said, “really is a giant metaphor for the magic of theater,” as well as “a wonderful escape from reality.”

________

Diane Urbani de la Paz is a freelance writer and photographer who lives in Port Townsend.

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