THEATER MIRROR REVIEWS - "As You Like It"

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note: entire contents copyright 1997 by Larry Stark


"As You Like It"

by Wilm Shaxpy
Directed by Jose Zayas

Set Design by Helen Shaw
Lighting Design by Roxanne Lanzot
Costume Design by Jessica Jackson
Sound Design by Amar Hamoudi
Choreography by Lorraine Chapman
Fight Choreography by Alistar Isaac
Stage Manager Rivka Levine

Rosalind.....................................Nora Zimmett
Orlando...................................Ryan McKittrick
Celia...................................Samara Levenstein
Jaques...............................Sarah Burt-Kinderman
Touchstone.................................Lorenzo Moreno
Audrey (Dennis)...............................Shannon May
Phebe.......................................Lucia Brawley
Oliver......................................Chuck O'Toole
Silvius.......................................Scott Brown
Corin (Adam, Jaques de Boys)..................Erik Amblad
Duke Senior & Duke Fredrick..............Padraic O'Reilly
Charles (William, Oliver Mar-Text)......Bashir Salahuddin
Deer........................................Toti Ezpeleta
Amiens (Hymen).........................Margaret J. Barker

Drums..................................Patrick Klemawesch
Violin...................................Yayoi Shionnoiri
Saxophones.........................Max Krohn, Matt Lutch


"As You Like It" is Rosalind's play, after all. She dominates and manipulates every plot-turn, gets a girl-dressed-as- boy-playing-girl turn, and finishes the show with an epilogue in one. And Director Jose Zayas was lucky to find a young woman of astounding sincerity, mercurial inventiveness and total fearlessness to play the role.

But having made Nora Zimmett his star, he set her in the midst of an all-but-the-kitchen-sink production bristling with fascinating ideas, interpretations, styles, characterizations, and concepts --- enough for several interesting takes on the same script --- and let them all fight it out for supremacy. In this sprawl, several other actors might have taken the play away from her, save for the fact that the lines load the dice in her favor.

Ryan McKittrick might have done it. He plays her marked out victim, Orlando, and he's bold and energetic and unafraid and, well, a hunk. But Orlando always is what Orlando says he is --- honest, smart, self-assured, heroic. The lines call for wit and forthrightness but hold nothing back. And Rosalind, dressed as Ganymede, has him for lunch.

Samara Levenstein as Celia ("the heroine's friend") starts out with the dominant role. As evil Duke Fredrick's pampered, wilfull daughter she makes most of the decisions early on, but then spends long stretches as a silent spectator watching "Ganymede" wind everyone around "his" little finger. When at long last she gets a shot at the love-at-first-sight bit it's got to be little more than a sight-gag because the play's by then galloping to its conclusion.

Sarah Burt-Kinderman playing Jaques does upstage the star, but by hardly saying a word to her. She takes her cue from Jaques' empathy with a wounded deer and bleeds any softness and any satire of philosophy from this melancholy man. Her "Seven ages of man" --- given here on a bare stage, speaking to (or is it about) the oversized mask of a very old man --- paints every stage with the despairing awareness of inevitable death. This is not a Jaques to be poked fun at, and her starkly original interpretation demands attention every moment she is on stage --- and Rosalind is not.

The only one who really tries to bump Rosalind is the town beauty Phebe, who scorns her honest shepherd to fall in love with --- Ganymede. Here Lucia Brawley goes for broke making her a navel-flaunting go-go queen in wriggling hip-huggers, with a New York attitude and an accent to match. Her gyrating entrance is a show-stopping turn, but means little when she has to join the rest in Shakespeareland.

What about Lorenzo Moreno's bombastic jester Touchstone, quipping his way toward perhaps temporary marriage with Shannon May's spread-eagled, toe-twirling Audrey? Certainly his round, shaved, grinning head and machine-gun puns, their tumbling into bawdry and her white-and-red parfait-striped stockings offer a knockabout parody of the main-ring's affair of love. The text, though, keeps them an intermittent sideshow.

Chuck O'Toole as Orlando's nasty brother Oliver gets the chance to do the right thing and get the girl (Celia) at play's end. Similarly, nasty Duke Fredrick and deserving Duke Senior fill out the big-picture backdrop, and when both are played by Padraic O'Reilly with minimal costume differences these traits become two sides of one coin.

But there's a lot of doubling and even tripling in this cast. Erik Amblad comes on as the old shepherd Corin after doffing that outsized old-man mask as Adam, and ends up with a rousing deus-ex-machina messenger role to tie up the last loose end. Bashir Salahuddin walks on as Oliver Mar-text (with no text to mar) but his big role is Charles the proud but honest wrestler. Fight Choreographer Alistar Isaac makes his loss to Orlando as faked as any World Wrestling bout, but the acting of the two of them makes it suddenly believably real. Margaret J. Barker makes the servent Amiens into a literal smiling footstool, then returns as Hymen the god of marriage --- a part most directors cut. Only Scott Brown, as the lucky Silvius who marries Phebe, doubles as nothing but an attendant.

Every one of these is a facet of a gem with bright glitter all its own --- and there are even more fascinating details. Helen Shaw's set features dangling cut-outs of phonographs and an alligator; Toti Ezpelita dances the death of the deer to Lorraine Chapman's difficult, expressive choreography; twice the cast quotes at considerable length from Lewis Carroll; one character is a puppet on Touchstone's hand; another wears an enormous mask and handles an umbrella like a tightrope-walker; Jaques is dressed like Charlie Chaplin, and others dress like men out of Magritte; an angular, elaborately stylized dumb-show dance starts the show, looks great, but doesn't connect. And each of These facets has its polished glitter as well.

Perhaps Jose Zayas spent all his time polishing new facets and ended up with too much to work with. He has given the play no shape, except sprawl. Each new experiment shines and is gone, connecting to nothing. The cast whips through the text, often eloquently, often lending an unfortunate new meaning to "trippingly on the tongue", and attempts to vary the pace sometimes sends quietly sincere lines inaudibly upstage. With this embarrasement of riches, the one spine holding the evening together is the one the author provided: Norma Zimmett's Rosalind.

Love,
===Anon.


Produced for the Harvard/Radcliff Dramatic Club
by
Jenny Connery and D.Drew Douglas
at
AGASSIZ THEATRE
in Radcliffe Yard
across Brattle Street from Loeb Drama Center, CAMBRIDGE
till 15 March
1(617)496-2222




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