AS YOU LIKE IT by William Shakespeare

 

 

You might have to take a flyer on this one.  You’re either going to like an As You Like It made hip and self-conscious or you’re going to miss the purity of its old-fashioned inanity. You might also ask why this play, out of all of those in the canon, is the one being asked to go dark—but there may be a certain challenge to that. What does seem to be missing in Sam Mendes’s new production (part of The Bridge Project at BAM’s Harvey Theater), however, is how much fun this play can be. Certainly, Mendes is looking to present an As You Like It relevant to today—we get a torture scene, a line of men who might as well be singing, “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?,” a Bob Dylan send-up, red clown noses, and the inclusion of a verse of “Here Comes the Bride”—some of which come off as simple pandering). We also meet a sullen Orlando, Christian Camargo, dressed in black, who seems to be a Hamlet in the making. Orlando, of course, not the sharpest knife in the Shakespearean drawer, can barely rhyme and, actually, can’t tell a woman from a man (maybe more of a problem when taken out of the Elizabethan stage context).  However, unlike Hamlet, he was not sent to school and is a man of action.  Orlando is willing to take on a wrestler, rebuke his brother, flee into the Forest of Arden, carve up some trees, and kill a lion.  He isn’t playing in counterpoint to the play’s festive hicks either—that role is taken by Jaques (called Monsieur Melancholy—Orlando is Signior Love, “full of pretty answers”). In fact, according to the text, Orlando refuses to be pessimistic:  when asked to “rail against our mistress the world and all our misery,” he tells Jaques, “I will chide no breather in the world but myself.”  It does make you wonder how interested Rosalind would be in a deep Orlando anyway:  In response to Jaques’s line, “'tis good to be sad and say nothing,” she says, “Why then, 'tis good to be a post.”   

 

 

 

Juliet Rylance does present a lively Rosalind—she, like the play itself, would “rather have a fool to make me merry than experience to make me sad.” You can probably imagine a more aristocratic characterization, but Rylance’s turn is chipper and smart.  If she seems to know a bit about playing to a music hall, she gives the show a needed pinch. Of the other actors, one must give special due to Alvin Epstein, the stage veteran, who does find the chill Mendes is looking for at the end of Act I, a baby spotlight shining on his head.  Although the cast can perform a dance on a dime, there seemed to be more of an interest in selling Shakespeare, and going through the motions, rather than inhabiting his characters—whether bumpkins or not.  Reading this production as a reflection of elements in the current economy, I wondered about the ending, which highlights chi-chi lanterns and formal wedding clothes—the conspicuous consumption that got us into this mess to begin with. (Who had time to pack wedding clothes on being banished anyway?)  For those who prefer to be critical of the text of As You Like It—thinking, like Samuel Johnson, that it isn’t the finest wine in the Bard’s cellar–consider that Shakespeare does, in terms of his dramaturgy, completely reverse the play’s elements by the end.  In terms of its meaning, one obvious thought is that Shakespeare is giving due to the pleasures of the country—Oliver, Celia, and her father will stay in the forest at the end to live a simple life; the characters have been changed for the better by being away from the court. I really can’t think that the play needs to elucidate a more profound point, even if you don’t agree with the sentiment—but, with copyright restrictions hundreds of years past, it really doesn’t matter what you do with As You Like It now.  Just keeping most of such sublime poetry intact and in mind–from “The Seven Ages of Man” to “Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind” to start–is enough to trust The Bridge Project's experiment.  If Shakespeare’s title is a key, he doesn’t mind.

 

 

 

© 2010 by Bob Shuman

  

 

 

Visit BAM: http://www.bam.org/

 

As You Like It

Jan 12—Mar 13

BAM Harvey Theater

Part of the 2010 Spring Season and The Bridge Project

Jan 12—Mar 13

World Premiere

Produced by BAM, The Old Vic & Neal Street Productions

By William Shakespeare
Directed by Sam Mendes

“A joy to watch”—The New York Observer

“It’s unlikely we’ll see a more insightful, more luminous performance all year”—The New York Post on Juliet Rylance

"Sam Mendes’ direction charms with fresh and frolicsome ideas”—Bloomberg.com

“Jaques is played with sly and subtle wit by the terrific Stephen Dillane”—The New York Times

 

Last spring, The Bridge Project launched its inaugural season at BAM with an outstanding ensemble of American and British actors in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale and Tom Stoppard’s adaptation of The Cherry Orchard. Following its successful debut in New York, the critically-acclaimed company, led by Tony and Academy Award-winning director Sam Mendes (Broadway’s Cabaret, and the films American Beauty and Revolutionary Road), embarked on a world tour, delighting audiences in cities including Singapore, Madrid, Auckland, Athens, and London.

Year two of The Bridge Project promises another stellar transatlantic lineup and an intriguing pairing of two Shakespeare plays as Mendes and company explore outcasts, power, and magical lands with their world premiering productions of the comedy As You Like It and The Tempest, considered to be Shakespeare’s last play.

Featured actors include:
Michelle Beck (Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Twelfth Night, Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Cyrano de Bergerac)
Christian Camargo (Broadway’s All My Sons, the film The Hurt Locker)
Tony Award-winner Stephen Dillane (Broadway’s The Real Thing, HBO’s John Adams)
Obie Award-winner Alvin Epstein (Broadway's The Three Penny Opera, BAM's Endgame)
Obie Award-winner Ron Cephas Jones (Broadway’s Gem of the Ocean, Donmar’s Jesus Hopped the A-Train)
Juliet Rylance (Theatre for a New Audience’s Othello, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre’s The Winter’s Tale)
Thomas Sadoski (Broadway’s reasons to be pretty and Reckless)

BAM Harvey Theater
Approx 185min with intermission

Subscription tickets:
$28, 52, 68, 76
$20, 44, 60, 68 (Jan 12—28, Tue—Thu only)

Full price:
$35, 65, 85, 95
$25, 55, 75, 85 (Jan 12—28, Tue—Thu only)

*Jan 26—30 at 7:30pm
Jan 31 at 3pm
Feb 2—6 at 7:30pm
Feb 7 at 3pm
Mar 2—5 at 7:30pm
Mar 6, 7, 13 at 2pm

The complete acting company is as follows: Ashlie Atkinson (Phoebe), Jenni Barber (Audrey), Michelle Beck (Celia), Edward Bennett (Oliver)*, Christian Camargo (Orlando), Stephen Dillane (Jaques)*, Alvin Epstein (Adam), Jonathan Lincoln Fried (Le Beau), Richard Hansell (Amiens)*, Ron Cephas Jones (Charles the Wrestler), Aaron Krohn (Silvius), Anthony O'Donnell (Corin)*, Juliet Rylance (Rosalind)*, Thomas Sadoski (Touchstone), Michael Thomas (Dukes Frederick and Senior)*, Ross Waiton (William/Boatswain)*

*Indicates British member of company

Edward Bennett, Stephen Dillane, Richard Hansell, Anthony O'Donnell, Juliet Rylance, Michael Thomas, and Ross Waiton are appearing with the permission of Actors' Equity Association. Ashlie Atkinson, Jenni Barber, Michelle Beck, Christian Camargo, Alvin Epstein, Jonathan Fried, Ron Cephas Jones, Aaron Krohn, and Thomas Sadoski are appearing with the permission of UK Equity, in corporating Variety Artistes' Federation, pursuant to an exchange program between American Equity and UK Equity. The Producers gratefully acknowledge Actors' Equity Association for its assistance of this production.

Set Design by Tom Piper
Costumes by Catherine Zuber
Lighting by Paul Pyant
Sound by Simon Baker
Composed by Mark Bennett
Hair & Wigs by Tom Watson
Casting by Nancy Piccione and Maggie Lunn
Choreography by Josh Prince

International Tour Producer: Claire Béjanin

 

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