LA Review: 'As You Like It'
at the Old Globe as part of the 2012 Shakespeare Festival
Reviewed by Evan Henerson
August 08, 2012
Having run the Royal Shakespeare Company for more than a decade and helmed every Bard work, Noble doesn't often misstep in production concept, overlay, or casting. Now in his third year as artistic director of the Old Globe's summer festival and working with a core group of American actors, the director is flexing his creative muscle. Noble hasn't cut a syllable of Shakespeare's text, and with Shaun Davey contributing original melodies, the production does not stint on the music. This "As You Like It" pushes forward, filled with blood and heart in equal measure.
Set in the 1930s, the proceedings begin with a railway car spiriting away the banished Duke Senior (Bob Pescovitz) and his followers in a scene evoking death-camp journeys. Left behind are an anxious Rosalind and Celia (Vivia Font), dressed by designer Deirdre Clancy like women out of Noël Coward. Our two heroines, however, are anything but stodgy eye candy as they play out much of their early "I'm in love" dialogue while cavorting around the ring lately occupied by Orlando and the wrestler Charles.
The court may be sterile, but things are even more wintry and chilling in the Forest of Arden. The followers of Duke Senior look like they have been vagabonds for many a month, and there is poignancy in the duke's admission "We have seen better days." Nonetheless, even in falling snow, Adam Daveline's Amiens plays a quick-paced mandolin, and everybody joins in the chorus of "This life is most jolly-o." That includes the "melancholy" Jaques, who, as played by a smiling, singing Jacques C. Smith, hardly lives up to his moniker.
After intermission the drape that had served as a snowy ground cover is hoisted skyward and fastened into place to form a canopy. Spring has burned winter away, and out come the gingham and the bright colors. Now is the time for Green's Rosalind—disguised as a frisky Ganymede—to take over the lessons of How to Woo 101. Amboyer's Orlando is up to the assignment. Indeed, during these lessons, the two young "men" get so caught up in the moment that they nearly cross a homoerotic threshold on more than one occasion.
New to love though she is, this Rosalind isn't improvising, although she's not above borrowing a "Take me now" gesture she learned from Allison Spratt Pearce's lusty Phoebe one scene prior. When she admits to Celia how deeply in love she is, the hurt is very much apparent.
Smith's rarely sad Jacques doesn't make much sense, and the attraction between Joseph Marcell's Touchstone and Danielle O'Farrell's rube-like Audrey is equally mysterious. But these are quibbles. Green is a rose in full bloom in an Arden full of earthly delights.
Presented by and at the Old Globe as part of the 2012 Shakespeare Festival, 1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego. June 29–Sept. 30. Schedule varies. (619) 234-5623 or www.theoldglobe.org. Casting by Calleri Casting.