Convoluted romantic fantasy that it is, As You Like is often revered by Shakespeare aficionados as one of the Bard’s best plays, as it contains some of his most lyrical passages within a mix of reflective melancholy and laugh-out-loud comedy.
Making is American debut, internationally acclaimed Shakespearean director Michael Attenborough brings the popular play to life at the Shakespeare Theatre Company and thanks to a stellar cast, quick comic action and tight stage direction, it’s a winning take on the light-hearted tale.
The play contains all the essential Shakespearean pieces—a wise fool, a melancholy malcontent, carnal vows, disguises, family fighting and of course, misinterpretation. Plus, there’s a magical forest, a wintry court and even Greco-Roman wrestling!
As it begins, Duke Senior has been usurped of his throne by his brother, Duke Frederick, and has fled to the Forest of Ardenne, where he lives like Robin Hood with a band of loyal followers.
The play then follows the adventure of Rosalind, who must escape her uncle’s wrath and hide in the woods disguised as boy away from her newly found love, Orlando. It’s hard to resist falling for Zoë Waites’ Rosalind, who conveys the very essence of wit and grace, although it does seem odd that she is the lone performer with an English accent. Andrew Veenstra’s goofy but lovable Orlando instantly falls under her spell, so much so that his character hangs love notes all over the forest.
The pair’s chemistry is undeniable, even as Ganymede (a disguised Rosalind) shows Orlando the ways of wooing a woman—and still Orlando (and the audience) falls for Waites’ charm again.
Timothy D. Stickney takes on the task of playing the two Dukes, charming us with his warm-hearted Duke Senior and turning the stern Frederick into a curmudgeonly old fool.
As with most Shakespeare plays, there’s never enough time to single out every actor on stage, but there wasn’t a weak spot in the bunch. An array of polished performances included Andrew Weems as the comic fool Touchstone, Derek Smith as the austere Jacques, and Adina Verson as Rosalind’s delightfully charming cousin Celia.
Attention must be paid to Valeri Mudek’s Phebe, who upon entering the action in Act 2 as a heartless shepherdess, steals every scene she is in. Her come-hither facial expressions towards Ganymede and disgust over the advances of her spurned lover Silvius (a divine Stephen Pilkington) are comic gold.
AS YOU LIKE IT
Closes December 14, 2014
450 7th Street NW
2 hours, 40 minutes with 1 intermission
Tuesdays thru Sundays
I do feel that Attenborough could have done better explaining the role that the goddess of marriage Hymen (Te’La Curtis Lee) has in the piece, as the character’s interactions with Rosalind are confusing at times. But Curtis Lee makes the most of her stage time and provides a beautiful song near the play’s end.
The intimate Lansbugh stage provides a nice home for the action, and the wrestling match seems larger than life thanks to Robb Hunter’s fast-paced fight choreography.
Still, the set itself seemed very barren with very little going on. Set director Jonathan Fensom may have been better advised to highlight the forest with more details and add some color to the stage. Fensom, who also served as costume designer, does much better in this role, although maybe a hat to transform Rosalind into Ganymede would have been better suited to disguise her long locks.
All the world’s truly a stage in As You Like It, and the Shakespeare Theatre Company does a fantastic job bringing it to life.
As You Like It by William Shakespeare . Directed by Michael Attenborough . Featuring Andrew Veenstra, Jeff Brooks, Gregory Woddell, Luis Alberto Gonzalez, Ian Bedford, Te La Curtis Lee, Zoe Waites, Adina Verson, Andrew Weems, Joel David Santner, Timothy D. Stickney, Todd Scofield, Happy Anderson, Stephen Pilkington, Derek Smith, Tara Giordano, Jeff Brooks, Valeri Mudek, Jonathan Feuer, Alex Piper, Theodore M. Snead and Nathan Winkelstein . Set/Costume design: Jonathan Fensom . Lighting design: Robert Wierzel . Sound design/original music: Steve Brush . Composer: Thomas Newman . Choreography: Karma Camp . Fight director: Robb Hunter . Production Stage Manager: Bret Torbeck assisted by Elizabeth Clewley . Produced by Shakespeare Theatre Company . Reviewed by Keith Loria.
AS YOU LIKE IT
Closes Dec 14
Jonelle Walker . DCist odd directorial and design choices left the production lacking in excitement.
Jordan Wright . Alexandria Times Director Michael Attenborough has brought an intriguing interpretation
Peter Marks . Washington Post it’s a resistible evening overall, one that often feels confoundingly sluggish.
Andrew White . BroadwayWorld [Waites is] the most thrilling, poised Rosalind I have ever seen.
Amanda Gunther . TheatreBloom [design elements] a sense of cleverly crafted elements that do not work as a part of a cohesive functioning show when they all come together.
Barbara Trainin Blank . MDTheatreGuide Zoë Waites offers zest and energy as well as the other requirements. There is both humor and palpable malaise in her being a “boy” in love with a boy.