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LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
As You Like It
by Macey Levin
Eleanor Holdridge's ably directed production brings life and thoughtfulness to the many thematic ideas woven throughout the play. She accents the beginnings and endings of mature life as young lovers find their way to each other and to a new world. The wisdom of age is seen in Duke Senior, Touchstone the jester, and old Adam. The eternal conflict of good and evil is suggested in the black and white design of Kris Stone's set and Lap-Chi Chu's costumes that embrace the production. And it is a journey through the Forest of Arden where people discover their true good selves and gain a finer understanding of the blissful life that love can provide.
The convoluted plot revolves around the banishment of Rosalind by her evil uncle Duke Frederick. Disguised as a young man, Ganymede (a favorite Shakespearean device,) she travels to Arden accompanied by her cousin Celia and Touchstone in search of her father Duke Senior. The exiled Orlando, in love with Rosalind and also exiled, becomes enamored of her/him. Celia falls in love with Orlando's brother Oliver; the rustics Phebe and Silvius' combative relationship turns into romance, and Touchstone woos Audrey. Throw in a couple of other sub-plots concerning Frederick's vengeful manipulations and Jacquis, a philosophizing follower of Senior, and a play rife with story lines about the charms of a simple life expands and expands before it reaches a tidy resolution. The characters are attractive and passionate and the dialogue, of course, is filled with wit, strong imagery and knowing observations.
Because it is a play about love and mistaken gender identity, there are many occasions for double entendres as well as sexually coy byplay along with suggestions of homoerotic attraction. Performed broadly but with good taste, Orlando's reaction to his love for the counterfeit male is sensitively played. Phebe also falls in love with Ganymede and they share a love scene.
The young women in the cast infuse a sparkling exuberance to the show. The keystone of the production is Sarah Rafferty as Rosalind whose presence saturates the stage with spirit and energy. Whenever she appears, the play soars with charm, intelligent delivery and appreciation of Shakespeare's wit. When she is onstage virtually every one else pales save Anne Gottlieb's Celia, who is more of a force in the early stages of the story. The randy Phebe receives a lusty performance from Susannah Millonzi.
Orlando, as played by Michael Milligan, is amiable, but he could use a touch more testosterone. Dan McCleary's Silvius, who is not the sharpest stick in the forest, is too restrained as the bumpkin. Jason Asprey, Kevin G. Coleman and James Robert Daniels are also serviceable in their various roles. Tony Molina, in several small parts, is charming and displays a very pleasant singing voice.
The important role of Jacquis is entrusted to Jonathan Epstein, one of Shakespeare & Company's leading performers. His lackluster delivery, especially of the famed "All the world's a stage…" speech virtually retard the pace of the show. Jacquis may be described as melancholy, but this one is clinically depressed.
Despite the three hour running time, the production, with its intelligent and insightful foundation, moves at a strong pace.
Editor's Note: The last time CurtainUp reviewed this popular Shakespeare romance was a high profile production at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. That was five summers ago-- Wow! how time does fly. For a look at that review go here.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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