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As You like It

CATEGORY :
by William Shakespeare

COMPANY : Georgia Shakespeare [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Conant Performing Arts Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 2837

SHOWING : June 13, 2008 - August 01, 2008

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

All the World's a Forest Be-In as Georgia Shakespeare takes you back to the Forest of Arden in this Free Love Conquers All approach to Bill the Bard's comic classic.


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REVIEWS

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Aspects of Lust
by Dedalus
Friday, June 20, 2008
3.5
Sigh.

After last year’s Kenneth Branagh film of “As You Like It,” I was looking forward to a new stage mounting. I hoped to bring to the experience a new-found appreciation for the nuances of all the sub-plots and character couplings of this oft-performed idyll.

And, truthfully, there is much that is good to report here. There is a concept that fits the story like a pair of tight bell-bottoms, a design that clearly delineates the court/country dichotomy, and a group of performances that make Shakespeare’s magic words ping-pong around the room with the wild abandon of a peyote reverie.

The only thing missing was an emotional arc that made me really care about these people, or an energy to drive the life force at its root. This is a production for which I can cite a page of good ideas built on fine performances, and for which I’d be hard-pressed to cite many “negatives.”

Yet, I still went home thinking it was only an okay mounting of a play for which I couldn’t muster much affection.

To be fair, for the first time, my ushering duties made me miss a good chunk of the show – two late-arriving buses filled the balcony at the Conant Center, and I spent much of the first couple scenes making sure everyone found a seat without disturbing the folks already there. And, also to be fair, I was running on too-little-sleep and too-many-caffeine-pills, so my attention tended to sputter.

Still, there were many moments of high poetry and quick invention that filtered through the daze. To start with, the “Those were the Daze” 60’s milieu was a very nice fit for the “Back to Nature / Betrayed by the Establishment” plot elements of the story. It did have the effect of making the various love stories appear based more on lust (aka “free love”) than real love, but that is an approach totally supported by the text. In fact, it is one reason why I’ve always been cool towards this play – the “Aspects of Love” motif of the various couplings always struck me more as “Aspects of Lust,” dominated as they are by love-at-first-sight and overt carnal anticipation, rather than real knowledge of each other and pleasure in one another’s company. Branagh’s movie mitigated this nicely by having Rosalind’s face hidden to Orlando at their first meeting, but here, it’s on full display. Even Rosalind’s “tutoring” of Orlando is driven by little more than her lust for him (which is not to say that Park Krausen isn’t a force of nature as well as the heart and soul of this be-in). However, it does have affect of making the resolution almost an afterthought, an, “Oh, our lust is satisfied, now let’s get to know each other” contrivance. Not that there’s anything wrong with that …

Again, to be fair, there is not a bad performance in the show. As I said, Park Krausen gives a wide-ranging and emotionally-affecting reading of Rosalind. Daniel May is a hearty and healthy Orlando, with his physical passion diverted by some strange feelings for this Ganymede guy that looks so much like his beloved. Joe Knezevich is an interesting Jacques, able to bellow his melancholy to the back of the balcony, even when he’s laughing. Chris Ensweiler, Susannah Millonozi, Enoch King, Brynn Tucker, Chris Kayser, and Ally Carey make up the other couples, and Rob Cleveland does his usual fine work as the shepherd Corin. For those who enjoy the “No small parts” cliché, take note of David Quay’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it role as Le Beau – sure it’s a stereotype, but it’s a funny and memorable one. (For those who need GPS to get through GSF’s plots and characters, it’s the scene that ends the wrestling sequence).

Some the sixties costumes and attitudes seemed a bit over-the-top to me, venturing more into Austin-Powers parody than the way I really remembered the decade, but, for a modern audience, it probably defines the period better than historical verisimilitude would have, so that’s easily forgiven.

Still, a little more energy would have made this production sing to me (and, maybe by the end of the run, the cast will find that energy). There were good ideas on display, a set/lighting scheme that beautifully evoked both palace and forest (without a realistic tree, leaf gobo or green gel in sight), and there were some fine faux-folk melodies put to the songs.

Still, I found some plot points underplayed (remind me again why Oliver becomes a good guy), some relationships paper-thin (Phoebe’s acceptance of Silvius at the end, for example), and some scenes a bit static and draggy.

And, of course, in the idiom of the time, that can be “Kind of a Drag.”

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)



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