“As You Like It”
WHERE: The Old Globe Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park
WHEN: In repertory through Sept. 30; various dates at 8 p.m.
‘As You Like It’ lovely to watch, divine to hear thanks to festival’s winning staff
By Charlene Baldridge | SDUN Theater Critic
All is right with the world. It’s summertime and the play’s the thing. The comedy has opened to juxtapose tragedy at the Old Globe’s 2012 Shakespeare Festival, which continues through September 30 at the outdoor Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park.
Bound to be enormously popular in this staging by Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Adrian Noble, the Bard’s sunniest comedy, “As You Like It,” is lovely to look at and divine to hear, with splendid original music by Shaun Davey that falls easily on the ear.
Not without dark imagery, “As You Like It” is set circa 1930 in a neither-here-nor-there country where dukes still reign and, in order to seize land and power, even send their own brothers into exile.
The tyrannical Duke Frederick (played by Happy Anderson) has done just that to his sibling, Duke Senior (Bob Pescovitz), who now lives with a band of starving friends in the Forest of Arden, where winters are tough. Among Duke Senior’s men is the melancholy Jaques (Jacques C. Smith), who delivers the familiar speech that begins “All the world’s a stage.”
Meanwhile, back at Frederick’s court, Senior’s daughter, Rosalind (tall, slim Dana Green), lives like a sister with her cousin Celia (vivacious Vivia Font). In a parallel sibling-rivalry plot, the villainous Oliver (Jay Whittaker) causes his more popular brother, Orlando (Dan Amboyer), to flee from Duke Frederick’s wrath. Orlando’s faithful retainer, the aged Adam (Charles Janasz), accompanies him.
In a fit of pique and insecurity, Duke Frederick banishes Rosalind, and Celia flees with her “coz,” taking the court clown Touchstone (Joseph Marcell) along with them. Rosalind adopts male attire, henceforth known as the youthful Ganymede. Celia becomes the simple maiden, Aliena. Their first encounter is with the shepherd, Corin (Adrian Sparks), who helps them find a dwelling.
All the new exiles collide with established Arden exiles and longtime denizens, creating numerous alliances and complications, not the least of which is Rosalind’s guise as a guy. In the end, love and forgiveness reign, the bad guys are redeemed, the lovers are united and everyone is happy, with the exception of the badly used Duke Senior and the melancholy Jaques. Both go off companionably into self-imposed spiritual exile. What’s a happy ending if not contrasted with a bit of sadness?
Under the guidance of music director Elan McMahan, Davey’s original music permeates the production, as sung by likable Adam Daveline as Amiens, one of those in Senior’s retinue. A student in the Old Globe and University of San Diego master’s in fine arts program, the versatile Daveline possesses a resonant baritone, plays the mandolin and creates a marvelous country parson as well. When the entire company sings, it is thrilling indeed.
Additional comedy is provided by MFA students portraying country dwellers Audrey (Danielle O’Farrell), Phoebe (Allison Spratt Pearce) and Phoebe’s swain, Silvius (outstandingly natural Christopher Salazar).
Amboyer, who portrays the Earl of Richmond in “Richard III” and attorney Bertram Cates (the John Scopes character) in “Inherit the Wind,” – the other two productions in repertory – is an appealing Orlando. If he seems particularly callow alongside the canny Rosalind, this is built into the role. Granted, the character of Orlando, though he may be handsome, is no match for Rosalind’s wit. The poetry he writes and posts on trees is bad. That’s part of the joke. To make up for this, Orlando must radiate irresistible sexual heat; Amboyer isn’t quite there yet.
Green is every inch the swaggering youth. Her voice, physicality and self-congratulatory joy are splendid indeed; however, this production belongs to Font’s grounded and energetic Celia, to Smith’s unusual, seemingly sane Jaques, and to all the deliciously limned bumpkins, clowns and philosophers.
Ralph Funicello’s spare scenic design welcomes parades, a field of snow that later becomes spring sky, glowing lanterns, quickly laid tables and, rising from the trap, a wrestling ring. Deirdre Clancy’s costumes are clever for the clowns and ravishing for the ladies, whether in court or country. Rosalind’s Ganymede getup is fetching. Alan Burrett’s lighting creates magic and Lindsay Jones’s sound design, with subtly microphoned actors, makes the arrival of the trash truck on opening night a trivial distraction. Blessedly, there were no airplanes.