As You Like It
Also see David's review of Gidion's Knot
Unfortunately, this production offers too little of a good thing.
Shakespeare's script, which he wrote about 1599, is based on a novel, "Rosalynde, Euphues Golden Legacie" by Thomas Lodge. Shakespeare's company first produced As You Like It in 1603.
As You Like It should make falling in love seem to be the most fun anyone could have. In this script the wealthy and the poor find love (and we suppose happiness) by the big wedding scene at the end of the play. Unfortunately, this cast makes falling in love seem laborious. No one seems to be having much fun in the pursuit of love and marriage. The script indicates all will end well and the actors must know how much fun this story should be for the audience. Love didn't hold the audience.
Edward Morgan, director, reimagined As You Like It and moved the action to New England early in the twentieth century. The scenes in the Forest of Arden look like the photographs of Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders posing for photographers with their rifles. In addition, he added a barbershop quartet, sho sing music from the early twentieth century"After the Ball" and other songs of that ilk. (Think of the barbershop quartet in The Music Man.) If you can't trust your playwright, don't direct the play.
However, Kim Krumm Sorenson has designed appropriate costumes for the early twentieth century. The women's gowns are especially nice. The men wear suits and sport coats that seem appropriate for cool New England.
Russell Metheny designed an intriguing set, which divided into three big units and are easily rolled around the stage showing different parts of the forest. Metheny consistently designs imaginative, useful sets.
Rosalind (Betsy Mugavero) disguises herself as a man in order to survive, with some safety, in the Forest of Arden. She falls in love with Orlando (Torsten Johnson) when he is forced to fight Charles the wrestler (Andrew Voss) and seeks every opportunity to be in his company.
Although disguised as a man and attempting to fake masculine movements, this Rosalind lets the audience know from the beginning that she only has eyes for Orlando. Their courtship is a wonderful hodge-podge of cross-dressing, flirting and sex play. In one charming scene, Rosalind, in disguise as a man, attempts to teach Orlando how to win a woman, specifically Rosalind. When they kiss, Rosalind fears she has dropped her disguise as a man. Orlando, a macho-man-in-the-making, believes he has kissed another man and he pulls out of the kiss and obviously struggles to understand what is happening to him.
So many couples are falling in love (or attempting to fall in love), and the romance between Oliver (J. Todd Adams) and Celia (Christine Weber) happens quickly and passionately. These characters have eyes only for each other and the two actors make their scenes as romantic as any teenager could wish.
Silvius (Juan Rivera Lebron) and Phoebe (Jodi Dominick) struggle with his affection for her and her affection for Rosalind.
Audrey (Atlie Gilbert) and Touchstone (Dustin Tucker) play the lowest of characters and, of course, get most of the laugh lines. These two performers make love a rough and tumble affair.
The director seems to have lost focus in directing the romantic scenes. The Rosalind-Orlando scenes have charm, but fade into the background when Touchstone and Audrey have a scene. Dustin Tucker is a spectacularly gifted performer. His presence on stage demands the audience pay close attention to his singing, dancing and humorous acting style.
Despite successful scenes, Edward Morgan doesn't catch the over-arcing humor in the show. Some scenes play well. Others lack unity with the significant plot lines. Morgan and the cast create a charming and romantic show, yet I found the production uneven and unsatisfying. Too much of this production can be too much.
This is the final production of the 2013-2014 season. In the fall, Great Lakes Theater will offer The Merry Wives of Windsor (September 26 - November 2, 2014), Les Misérables (October 3 - November 9, 2014), A Christmas Carol (November 29 - December 23, 2014), Dial "M" for Murder (February 27 - March 22, 2015) and The Tempest (April 10-26, 2015).
As You Like It plays through April 19, 2014, at the Hanna Theatre, PlayHouseSquare. The show starts at 7:30pm and with a 15+ minute intermission runs to about 10pm.
For ticket information call 216-241-6000 or 888-548-1353 or visit www.greatlakestheater.org.
As You Like It
- David Ritchey