In a program director’s note, Nicholas Martin-Smith explains how he was struck by dark undercurrents in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, and how the play is a journey, with lots of helplessness and powerlessness. Yes, well. Heady stuff for twilight in the park. Thankfully, he also remembered it’s a comedy, and directed his cast to play to the hilt.
Ok, so the set-up isn’t much fun, all that banishment and disinheriting. But the real meat of the play is Rosalind and Orlando, and whether they’re worth your time. Carissa Cordes and James Edward Becton gave practically perfect performances for outdoor Shakespeare they managed to both act and be clearly heard. They both also had a stylization to their speech and demeanor that might not be appropriate for indoors, but outside it played exactly right. And besides, their characters are both bold chance-takers, so why not declaim as if they’re happy to meet the world on their own terms, in spite of what fate has thrown at them. (If fate hadn’t, there wouldn’t be a play, but that’s another story.) As it is, though, it made them interesting, appealing, fun, and well suited to each other.
On another basic level, it was great to see an exiled Duke Ferdinand (Kelly King) who carried himself like a king, but exhibited the good sense to be likeable and not abuse his position. Maybe it’s the forest that does it, because it also made Celia (Kristal Lynn Lockyer) turn from slightly annoying sidekick to warm and open companion. Jaques (Todd Butera) seemed more grumpy than melancholy, but he too was well spoken, and there was a fun verbal jousting match with Orlando.
In fact there was plenty of fun verbal jousting, and all of the Shakespearean set-pieces were well done. Rosalind-as-Ganymede and Orlando; Corin the shepherd’s (Joe Crow Ryan) simple, direct, honest nature as Touchstone (Joe Hamel) tries to get a rise out of him; terrific Orlando and Ganymede (again!) as he woos “Rosalind”; more fun as Touchstone woos Audrey (Sydney Stanton); Ganymede trying to divert Phoebe’s (Carrie Edel Issacman) attentions over to Sylvius (Chris Behan). It was even funny when the evil-but-finally-repentant Oliver (Brian Releford II) was confronted by Ganymede and Celia. And the requisite audience participation was not over-done the occasional actor giving a spectator a prop to hold, or Jaques sitting with the spectators watching Touchstone and Audrey wasn’t forced, but part of the fun.
Martin-Smith’s costume designs were generic-Shakespearean but eminently suitable for all the jumping and climbing the cast did (even the kick-line for “There was a lover and his lass…”), and the lighting was by nature and the Parks Department. Did they time it so that park lights went on just in time for curtain calls? Nice touch, that.
Also with David Douglas Smith, George Wells, Leo Gionnopoulos, Michael C. Freeland, Kwasi osei, William Ramirez, Chris Johnson, Mark Isler, Tyler D Hall.
Copyright 2007 David Mackler