Walter Mencken 9:21 p.m., Oct. 20
As You Like It at the Old Globe
Run to it!
Dana Green's doing a spectacular Rosalind, one of Shakespeare's smartest women, and the Adrian Noble-directed production's a wall-to-wall charmer.
The play begins upside-down. Conniving Duke Frederick banishes his brother, Duke Senior. The scene's portrayed vividly at the Globe: steam rises from a departing train (to Dachau?); a woman in white rushes to her father. It's Rosalind. Too late.
In court Frederick exercises his new freedom by denying the rights of others (no scorecard needed to tell the nice folks from the Nazis).
Duke Senior goes to the Forest of Arden, in the northeast corner of Warwickshire County where Shakespeare grew up. The Bard's mother was Mary Arden, so personal connections may have run deep.
Banished Rosalind and friend Celia, Duke Frederick's daughter, flee to the forest. Orlando, neglected son of Sir Rowland de Boys (in French: "of the woods"), pines for a woman he met once, named Rosalind.
Disguised as a man, Rosalind gives him an ongoing seminar on how to behave with a woman (Juliet does the same thing. Once she gets Romeo alone, she practically orders him to cut the swoony poeticizing BS and speak from the heart).
As You Like It is a "pastoral" comedy. It's usually staged as a city versus country comparison, with rustic ways winning out over the "painted pomp" of civilization. To stress the point, productions tend to turn Arden into an Eden filled with chipper Bambi's and Thumper's.
But as Amiens (Adam Daveline) sings, "Here shall we see/No enemy/But winter and rough weather." Costume designer Deidre Clancy decks the cast in a modern dress, Nordic look: heavy coats and woolen scarves. As Rosalind, Celia, and Touchstone enter the forest, a huge white sheet follows them downstage: snow afoot and, in the second half, a canopy above.
The country has its virtues - it slows city-folk down long enough to turn right-side up - but Eden it isn't (it's almost as if Shakespeare read sun-beamy, bucolic poetry and said, "they never spent a winter in Warwickshire").
As in Noble's other mountings at the Globe, music, dance, and smart, theatricality play major roles. In particular, the wrestling scene, staged by Steve Rankin. Orlando (an ardent Dan Amboyer) and Charles (Matthew Bellows) grapple like combatants on Monday Night Raw and threaten spectators in posh evening wear.
Amid quality ensemble work, some performances stand out. Many see the melancholy Jacques as a narcissistic role-player: a fashionable downer. Jacques C. Smith (talk about a connection!) convinces that his courtier may not be playing at all.
Vivia Font's sprightly Celia, Charles Janasz's ancient Adam (a role the Bard may have played), and Joseph Marcell's sage Touchstone contribute.
Green has on-the-spot intelligence (she and Smith convince they're composing extempore), instant shifts from mind to heart, and a remarkable rapport with the audience. Rosalind claims to be a conjuring magician. So's Green.
Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park, through September 30 [note: runs in repertory with Richard III and Inherit the Wind.
More like this:
- The Two Gents Template — Sept. 8, 2014
- Shakespeare's R&J at Cygnet Theatre — May 28, 2013
- Grooming the Groom — July 13, 2012
- As You Like It, Romeo + Juliet, Taming of the Shrew — Sept. 20, 2007
- Raging Romance — July 12, 2007