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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

As You Like It

Also see Susan's reviews of Camelot and Show Boat

A Christmas Carol
Francesca Faridany and
John Behlmann

In the vision of director Maria Aitken, the world of William Shakespeare's As You Like It is not a stage, but the silver screen. Or, to borrow a line from another of the great man's plays, "such stuff as dreams are made on" comes from the Hollywood dream factory in Aitken's current production at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington.

It's a rather busy conceit, as one can imagine, and has little to do with the love story between the banished princess Rosalind (Francesca Faridany) and the mistreated courtier Orlando (John Behlmann). Still, it's fun for an audience to watch, wondering who will turn up next in what guise borrowed from American history as viewed through the prism of old movies. Derek McLane's scenic design roams from a Southern plantation to the Southwestern vistas of John Ford westerns, and musical theater composer Michael John LaChiusa matches him with lovely background music and songs in a range of styles.

Aitken sets up the "movie" concept at the beginning: a flickering, silent re-enactment of the night Rosalind's father, Duke Senior (Mark Capri), was deposed by agents of his brother Frederick (also Capri). Duke Frederick's court is dark, forbidding, and Puritanical in the literal sense, with costumes by Martin Pakledinaz that suggest The Crucible.

Then Rosalind and her cousin and confidante, Celia (Miriam Silverman), flee to the Forest of Arden where Duke Senior lives with his followers—and the world shifts into color. The setting isn't Oz, although that might have been a tempting choice for Aitken and her designers; the duke's court is in Valley Forge just before the American Revolution, where the natives coexist peaceably with the nobles. (This is the Hollywood version of the past, remember.)

Rosalind, disguised as a man, and Celia settle into rustic domesticity. Orlando, who has escaped to Arden because his brother Oliver (Barnaby Carpenter) wants to kill him, vents his love for Rosalind by scattering love poems throughout the forest. Rosalind takes advantage of her false identity to advise Orlando on the ways of love. Several other characters also stumble into love, including the jester Touchstone (Floyd King), who finds his match in a lively wench named Audrey (Beth Glover).

Sometimes the production gets too clever for its own good. Recognizable costumes from iconic films start turning up. One of the shepherds turns into a suave nightclub singer. Cynical Jaques (Andrew Long), who finds more bitter humor than melancholy in this version, appears to channel Mark Twain at one point. And who invited Mae West and Groucho Marx to the party? But don't think too hard and it's entertaining.

Shakespeare Theatre Company
As You Like It
November 17th December 20th
By William Shakespeare
Duke Frederick, usurper of his older brother Senior: Mark Capri
Celia, his daughter: Miriam Silverman
Rosalind, daughter of Duke Senior: Francesca Faridany
Young Rosalind: McKennah Edmunds, Julia Ferrara (alternating)
Touchstone, fool to the Duke: Floyd King
Le Beau, a courtier: Todd Scofield
Charles, the Duke's wrestler: Elliot Dash
Hisperia, gentlewoman to Celia: Catherine LeFrere
Orlando, youngest son of Sir Roland de Boys: John Behlmann
Oliver, his older brother: Barnaby Carpenter
Adam, their servant: Ted van Griethuysen
Dennis, servant to Oliver: Patrick Vaill
Duke Senior, exiled by his younger brother Frederick: Mark Capri
Jaques, a melancholy traveler: Andrew Long
Amiens, a lord: James Konicek
First Lord: Lawrence Redmond
Second Lord: Jon K. Reynolds
Corin, a shepherd: Raphael Nash Thompson
Silvius, a shepherd: Aubrey Deeker
Phebe, a shepherdess: Anjali Bhimani
Audrey, a country woman: Beth Glover
Sir Oliver Mar-Text, a vicar: Ted van Griethuysen
William, a country man: Elliot Dash
Hymen, god of marriage: Jon K. Reynolds
Ensemble: Meredith Burns, Sarah Mollo-Christensen, Catherine LeFrere, Charlie Francis Murphy, Adam Navarro, Todd Quick, David Joseph Regelmann, Patrick Vaill
Directed by Maria Aitken
Sidney Harman Hall, 6120 F St. N.W.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or www.shakespearetheatre.org


Photo: Scott Suchman


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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