Celia (Alexander Lenarsky) looks like a contestant on "Project Runway" in this production of "As You Like It."
His cousin and lifelong best friend, Rosalind (Maria Giere Marquis), looks like a Depression-era drifter.
And in one scene, a fair-faced but kind of scrawny Orlando (Miyaka Cochrane) kicks the sweetmeats out of championship belt-wearing Charles (Stacz Sadowski) in the wrestling ring.
Yes, this is a production of Shakespeare's comedy. But when Berkeley's Impact Theater decides to take a hold of it, the Bard can expect to get a text message or two about how things have changed over the past 400 to 500 years.
For the past 10 years or so, Melissa Hillman has been adapting Shakespeare's work to suit the sensibilities of the mostly college-age audiences that gather in the basement theater below La Val's Pizza on Berkeley's Euclid Avenue.
Once again, she has a winner with "As You Like It."
Hillman has made some good choices with her gender-bending cast, particularly with Lenarsky as Celia. He displays some excellent comedic touches, and manages to stay worlds away from the "gay pal" stereotype thrust into so many sitcoms. Instead, his Celia and Marquis' Rosalind are simply lifetime pals whose bonds are deepened when Rosalind is bounced from her home in San Francisco and decides to take off for rural Northern California. Their conversations are a road trip through friendship's curvy road.
Rosalind dons men's clothes that look like they come from L.L. Bean's Tom Joad collection, and Celia is a little more chic as the two go in search of Rosalind's mom, The Duchess (Duke Senior in a less gender rearranged show) -- played by Marianna Wolff, who also plays Celia's mom, the other Duchess.
Then there is Orlando, attaching love notes to every open space he can find. He is smitten with Rosalind, but as happens in so many love stories, neither admits to having affections.
So the road to true love is rough, even when it meanders through the peaceful woods of Northern California. And the hills are alive with some crazy characters, including Audrey (Cassie Rosenbrock), a pregnant bar owner who dispenses wisdom; Adam (Dennis Yen), Orlando's elderly, easily tired traveling companion; and Silvius and Phebe (Brandon Mears and Luisa Frasconi) who have on-and-off relationships with a number of people, including each other.
And everyone, grapplers or not, gets some wonderfully funny moments and takes full advantage of them. Hillman, in her director's role, has a knack for getting her actors to develop their characters, and she has created a show that is both smart and hugely funny.
Contact Pat Craig at email@example.com.
'AS YOU LIKE IT'
By William Shakespeare, adapted and directed by Melissa Hillman for Impact Theatre
1834 Euclid Ave, Berkeley
Through: March 30
Running time: 2 hours