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Costumes help set the mood in 'As You Like It'

For anyone who doubts that we need another production of "As You Like It," Gabriel Berry has a ready answer.

"It's January in Pittsburgh," Berry says. "This is a chance to get to the countryside and watch the flowers bloom."

Berry is the costume designer for "As You Like It," which began previews Thursday at the O'Reilly Theater, Downtown.

Shakespeare's highly theatrical "As You Like It" is a romantic comedy that transports a group of young courtiers from the rules and restrictions of Duke Frederick's palace to the freedom and fantasy of the Forest of Arden populated by shepherds and country maidens. As they assume new identities and encounter new people they also discover love and learn a few things about themselves.

"It's a wonderful comedy and sweet natured," says Berry, who previously designed the costumes for Pittsburgh Public Theater productions of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "The Tempest," and last fall's production of "Electra."

As she began designing the costumes, Berry worked closely with director Ted Pappas.

"Ted is knowledgeable and has his taste. Whenever you talk with him about a show, he has plenty of ideas," she says.

The production is set 1907, toward the end of the Edwardian period.

"It's the start of the modern age, but the concept of courts and kings still has some meaning and the concept of formality still means something," Berry says.

Early 20th-century costuming makes it easier for audience members to recognize which characters are servants and which are aristocracy.

"If you do that faithfully, (the audience) is not confused (they) understand who everybody is," Berry says.

Pappas and Berry also employ costuming traits to emphasize the difference between the formality of Duke Frederick's court, where the early scenes are set, and the relaxed atmosphere in the later forest scenes.

In court scenes, much of the clothing is black and structured. When the characters shift to the freedom of the countryside, the costumes become softer and the color palette becomes lighter.

The shift highlights the feeling of relief as characters are freed of confining restrictions.

Plus, Berry says: "We wanted people to be pretty. In theater, you have to lust after everybody on the stage. You have to want to spend time with them. There are four couples who get married in this, so there's a lot of attraction fueling this."

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Clothes make the play

Clothes make the play

Costumes help set the mood in 'As You Like It.'

Additional Information:

'As You Like It'

Produced by: Pittsburgh Public Theater

When: Through Feb. 19 at 8 p.m. most Tuesdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. most Saturdays and 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays

Admission: $28-$60; $15.75 for students and age 26 and younger with valid ID

Where: O'Reilly Theater, 621 Penn Ave., Downtown

Details: 412.316.1600 or www.ppt.org

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