As You Like It is perhaps the Bard’s most delightful play and a perennial crowd pleaser.
Cousins and best friends Rosalind and Celia are caught in the middle of a feud between their fathers. They flee the court of Celia’s father to find Rosalind’s father in exile in the Forest of Arden. Rosalind’s love Orlando then arrives in the forest to meet a young “man” named Ganymede who offers to cure him of his lovesickness. “Ganymede,” of course, is Rosalind in boy’s clothing. Many misunderstandings and entanglements ensue as “Ganymede” provides love advice to to a shepherd and shepherdess, and as Touchstone the fool is enticed by a local girl.
Director Jessica Stone clearly understands the subtleties of the play, and her directing shows that she trusts in Shakespeare’s relevance to a contemporary audience. She allows the gorgeous poetry and charming story to shine.
The acting is without exception excellent. Meredith Garretson and Nikki Massoud are effervescent as Rosalind and Celia. Garretson masterfully incorporates the boy/girl counterpoint, managing to be believable as both, while Massoud’s Celia rises to the challenge of keeping up with Rosalind.
I think the play would have been better served by having the dukes played by different actors, or by more obvious costume, character, or vocal distinctions between them. My companion did not realize that Cornell Womack was playing both roles until I explained it at the intermission.
A major theme of the play is the contrast between the court/Duke Frederick and the forest/Duke Senior, a contrast between artificiality and nature, diplomacy and sincerity.
The bare telephone poles meant to represent trees did nothing to undergird that theme. It was particularly jarring given the outdoor setting in Balboa Park with its magnificent trees as a backdrop. Likewise, the enormous rococo frame conflated the two locations, compounding the confusion of Womack’s double roles.
The enchantment of the final scene redeemed the scenic barenness, making me wish those elements had been introduced at the outset.
Summer Broyhill is a winsome Amiens, her sweet voice providing the main soundtrack for the production. Her costume, however, put my companion in mind of the next victim of Jack the Ripper — it looked more 19th Century London than the 18th Century France of the other costumes. The costumes are otherwise a feast for the eyes.
If by chance Shakespeare left a bad taste in your mouth in high school, this production will cleanse your palate. But never fear if you are a bardolater: neither will you be disappointed. This show has something for everyone to like.
- As You Like It, by William Shakespeare
- The Old Globe, Balboa Park
- Directed by Jessica Stone, cast: Summer Broyhill (Amiens) Ramon Burris (Charles), Mason Conrad (Silvius), Yadira Correa (Audrey), Aubrey Deeker Hernandez (Oliver), Mark H. Dold (Jacques), Meredith Garretson (Rosalind), Joseph Kamal (Adam), Nikki Massoud (Celia), Jon Orsini (Orlando), Hallie Peterson (Le Beau), Vincent Randazzo (Touchstone), Morgan Taylor (Phoebe), Cornell Womack (Duke Senior, Duke Frederick). Scenic design: Tobin Ost, costume design: David Israel Reynoso; lighting design: Stephen Strawbridge; sound design, Sten Severson.
- Runs through July 21