A stylized musical with whimsical characters intermittently breaking out in a jig-esque dance mark The Old Globe’s production of As You Like It.
Director Adrian Noble delights the audience with music, dance, inspirational characters and grand props that flow with the spirit of creativity. As You Like It is one of his favorite plays that is, in his words, “full of love, wonderful characters and no less than four weddings at the play’s end.” Sometimes this play is produced with a dark tone, but Noble balances the melancholy with humor and fun.
As You Like It is especially entertaining with Jacques C. Smith (Jaques), as a big talker, balancing the sexual and comic prose with a sarcastic melancholy. Jaques is in the forest, with the lords who maintain their loyalty to the banished Duke, listening to the mandolin. He says he “…can suck the melancholy out of a song as a weasel sucks eggs,” in an off-putting way to Adam Daveline (Amiens). Daveline (Amiens) tells Smith (Jaques) he cannot please him. Smith wittingly quips back, “I do not desire you to please me.” He draws out many other lines like this using “tail” as a pun. Then, there is the famous line, “All the world’s a stage…,” he speaks of the “Seven Ages of Man” accenting “Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.” His words set up a visually stunning entrance as Dan Amboyer (Orlando) carries in Charles Janasz (Adam) to the foresters' table of food. The cast is made mute by the speech and after moves silently in slow motion, offering a picturesque view.
Dana Green (Rosalind) is infectiously sanguine and Dan Amboyer (Orlando) is too smitten to give in to Jaques's temperamental attitude. Green almost forgets she is Ganymede as she holds Amboyer from behind sitting on the floor. Amboyer is a willing Orlando wooing Ganymede if that is what it takes to satisfy his affection for Rosalind. Amboyer lies next to Ganymede with his head on Vivia Font’s (Celia) bottom and then slaps it. Green uses her scarf as a prop and covers them with it as she curls around him pretending to be his love. Green has the audience convinced she is a woman in love who has possibly given her identity away. Font saves her from revealing the truth too soon by being a playful assistant. Green lies on Font crying, trying to convince Orlando not to go. It’s a fun girlish friendship.
Rosalind has more than one admirer. Allison Spratt Pearce (Phoebe) is giddily naughty as she has to have Ganymede no matter what. She holds a shepherd's rod between her legs, bouncing, not able to contain her lust. All the while her true admirer Christopher Salazar (Silvius) is watching as she makes a fool of herself lying on the floor wanting Ganymede.
Some of the creative team that worked on As You Like It also worked in last year’s festival, include scenic designer Ralph Funicello, costume designer Deirdre Clancy and composer Shaun Davey. They tweaked similar ideas from the previous year which gives each of them, as an artist, an expectant signature style.
The impressively crafted stage starts out as almost empty with two ladders leading up to the rafters. Though minimalist, the props are dramatic by using a similar sheet that overwhelms the stage in last year’s The Tempest. The sheet lies on the stage with holes for newly centered ladders. The cast stands among the audience and pulls the ropes that elevate the white cloth, tilting it, creating a faux roof. Another clever prop creates snow by having white felt creep along the stage behind Touchstone, Celia and Rosalind upon entering the Forest of Arden. For the fight scene, a scaled-down fighting ring is raised through the trap, leaving an impression in the middle of the stage, allowing for Rosalind and Celia to continue their scene sitting behind the ropes with their legs dangling as they sit in sparkling dresses. How apropos to have the most memorable staged scene be the, “All the world’s a stage…” The cast is cozy in winter clothes enjoying plates of fruit and bread with light fading around them like a painting set by lighting designer Alan Burrett.
The costumes are influenced by the 1930s and 40s. The sparkling dresses that Rosalind and Celia wear have thin straps that drape to the floor, one silver and one gold. Rosalind is transformed into Ganymede with trousers, an Oxford shirt, vest and newspaper boy’s hat. Joseph Marcell (Touchstone) is the most amusing with a clownish costume of quilted pants, maroon vest, large colorful abstract-print tie, red socks with sandals, topped with a cowboy hat. A couple of the dresses are everyday cotton short-sleeve floral prints that go below the knee. The red pops on the dresses and the vest much like in the costumes for Much Ado About Nothing last year. Costume designer Deirdre Clancy is designing for all three productions of the Shakespeare Festival at The Old Globe. (Even more interesting is her behind the scenes life as a costume designer that reads like a play itself on her blog that can be found on her website www.clancy.uk.com.)
The production starts with pre-recorded harp joined with a drum. Also, Adam Daveline (Amiens) plays a mandolin evocative of Irish America. Composer Davey had used the harp in The Tempest last year, but this time around is folk inspired. The cast joins in for many catchy tunes, such as, “With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino.” The music inspires dance taking the audience back to Appalachia.
This year The Old Globe’s As You Like It doesn’t disappoint with some of the same made new through the creative team and some returning and new cast. It’s comforting to see familiar faces like Jay Whittaker (Oliver) who is also cast as Richard in Richard III and to see actors like Allison Spratt Pearce grow and transform and Charles Janasz (Adam/Hymen) become the indiscernible actor. The actors dissolve into their character forcing a discerning eye to look at headshots to make sure that is who is on stage. Dan Amboyer is a new, flawless Orlando adding to the optimism of this production. The Old Globe’s creation is less melancholy and more cheery as romance and optimistic philosophy of the youth prevail. Adrian Noble’s direction is inspiring, allowing all the senses to be stroked. He never disappoints with a sophisticated show. There is something for everybody whether it is a play or a musical--it can be taken as you like it.