As You Like It
I will be rather frank; I do not typically enjoy modern adaptations of Shakespeare. To me there is nothing wrong with the original work being produced as it was originally done and, as a theatergoer and theater lover, I often feel cheated out of the experience when it is adapted. Even worse is when the play is forced to comply with the standards of a different era.
I can understand and empathize with the director’s want to reinvent something that has been produced thousands of times over; the ever-present need of an artist to craft a unique experience or reimagine what has become so classic it is almost cliché.
I did, despite my prejudices, enjoy the latest incarnation of "As You Like It," William Shakespeare’s play about the delights and diversity of love and the ductility of the human experience. Running on the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre at The Old Globe in Balboa Park, it is the next installment in their annual summer Shakespeare Festival.
Set in the early 20th Century, this production still captures the essence and motifs of the original work and translates them well into an entirely different era. When done well, modernizing the Bard’s work shows the timelessness of his writing and director Adrian Noble pulled it off.
The story begins in the midst of a quarrel between two brothers. The eldest son Oliver (Jay Whittaker), left the entirety of his recently deceased father’s estate, was instructed to care for and support his younger brother, Orlando (Dan Amboyer), but fails to do so. Orlando soon finds himself fleeing for his life but not before he meets Rosalind with whom he instantly falls in love.
Rosalind (Dana Green) also soon finds herself banished and forced to live a secret life, that of a man named Ganymede. Accompanied by her best-friend Celia (Vivia Font), they find a way to rekindle the romance that began between Rosalind and Orlando. With plot twists and misunderstandings befitting an episode of "Three’s Company," the story ultimately resolves, as any good comedy would, and lays a happy ending at the feet of an engaged audience.
Perhaps one of Shakespeare’s most liberal plays, this one is loaded with gay undertones, gender dynamics and an overall theme of "Love: As You Like It." If laughter, romance and two fantastic female leads are your cup of tea, a night out at the theatre under the stars may be in your own plot line.
There were two distractions I found in this particular staging. First is the chemistry and strength of Green as Rosalind and Font as Celia. Their performance was so believable it felt difficult at times to discern who in fact was each other’s real love interest, a consequence intentionally written into the play by Shakespeare. The issue did not lie in the quality of the performance but in its contrast to the men. They simply outshined their male counterparts.
The second was a technical issue. Though the show was technically sound, what started off as an awe-struck audience caught in a light snowstorm eventually became an audience fighting the flittering snow to focus in on the performances. I found myself with fake snow in my eyes and in my mouth, even in my hair the next morning. This aside, Ralph Funicello’s scenic design was one of the most memorable aspects of the show, even garnering a "Wow!" from the audience as the second act opened.
Alan Burrett’s lighting was whimsical but somber when it needed to be. Deirdre Clancy’s costuming was superb right down to the creative modernized dressing of a character that was originally written to be a court jester and Lindsay Jones’s sound design beautifully supported some unexpected musical numbers.
A solid performance despite my own initial misgivings, "As You Like It" is a sound summer selection.