The British invasion of the Theater at Monmouth was a gradual one.

The theater’s season will include two plays by Shakespeare, like always, and especially appropriate as the Anglophone world celebrates Shakespeare’s 450th birthday this year.

Producing Artistic Director Dawn McAndrews chose to balance the romantic comedy “As You Like It” with the teenage angst and tragedy of “Romeo and Juliet.”

The Theater at Monmouth is in the second year of a three-year commitment to Gilbert & Sullivan, so the fall musical will be the pair’s story of an entire village being dosed with love potion, “The Sorcerer.”

Inspired by her new obsession with “Downton Abbey,” McAndrews then chose to present Oscar Wilde’s “A Woman of No Importance” for both its portrayal of intrigue among the upper class and its large number of roles for women — a rarity in classic theater.

McAndrews and director Brian Allen were looking for an American comedy from the mid-20th century to round out the season when McAndrews decided to go with the theme she saw emerging.

“I decided, let’s put a true British season together,” she said.

They chose “What the Butler Saw,” a farce by English playwright Joe Orton full of innuendo and cross-dressing.

The Theater at Monmouth’s 45th season kicked off June 28 with the family show, “Tales from the Blue Fairy Book.”

“As You Like It” opens Thursday.

The male romantic lead in “As You Like It,” Orlando, will be played by Portland actor Michael Dix Thomas, who also has the role of Mercutio in “Romeo and Juliet.”

Thomas said he’s attracted to Shakespeare’s work because the characters’ emotional worlds are universal, and “Romeo and Juliet” is one of his favorite plays.

“It’s such a beautiful story, and Dawn McAndrews’ production this year I think is going to be tremendous and clean and quick and beautiful,” Thomas said.

Thomas has never been in a production of “As You Like It,” and he said he’s learning a lot from working with the other actors in rehearsals.

Costumes for “Romeo and Juliet” were designed by Elizabeth Rocha, who grew up in Liberty and now lives in Boston. She also designed the costumes for last year’s production of “The Velveteen Rabbit.”

For “Romeo and Juliet,” Rocha and McAndrews decided on an updated version of clothes from the Elizabethan period when Shakespeare was writing. They ditched features that look ridiculous to modern eyes, like pumpkin pants, to create streamlined costumes that also make swordfighting easier.

Dress rehearsals for the show haven’t started yet. Rocha said she looks forward to seeing her costumes on stage in the context of the production as a whole.

“I’ve never seen a show come out there that wasn’t really terrific,” she said. “The actors are always so enthusiastic and into it. It just always comes together really beautifully, so it’s always really exciting to see the end product.”

Susan McMillan — 621-5645

[email protected]

Twitter: @s_e_mcmillan


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