Adrian Noble’s staging of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” begins with the startling, even shocking image of the old Duke and several other characters scrambling onto a boxcar.
It’s a tone-deaf clue that this version of the play is set in the 1930s, but let’s face it: However terrible banishment from court favor may have seemed in Shakespeare’s time, it really can’t be compared to being shipped off to Dachau.
There are other odd images as well: tall ladders appearing out of nowhere in the forest, a time-consuming scene in which actors engineer a canopy-lift from the aisles that adds questionable atmosphere to a story that is, after all, not about technology but the redemptive power of love.
Fortunately, superb acting and the Bard’s poetic script save this production from its clumsy staging and make it worth seeing.
You know the story: A usurper to the French throne (Happy Anderson) banishes his brother and several other courtiers. The women (his daughter Celia and niece Rosalind) save the day, making him see the light, make restitution and turn testosterone-fueled threats of violence into a huge wedding party where four couples tie the knot.
The best thing about this production is Dana Green’s spot-on Rosalind, daughter of the banished Duke Senior (Bob Pescovitz). Rosalind is one of Shakespeare’s most endearing female characters: bright, verbal, daring, yet reduced to mush at the first sight of the handsome Orlando (played with panache by festival newcomer Dan Amboyer). Green also has a delightful way of playing to the audience.
Vivia Font’s playful Celia is the perfect complement to Green’s Rosalind.
Also worth watching: Jay Whittaker, who (unlike his other character this summer, Richard III) apologizes and is forgiven for his shabby treatment of younger brother Orlando; Charles Janasz, as Orlando’s kindly old servant Adam; Joseph Marcell, as the fool Touchstone, who marries the wench Audrey (played with exquisite vulgarity by Danielle O’Farrell); Jacques C. Smith, as the melancholy Jaques, and Adrian Sparks as the wise old shepherd Corin.
Credit Deirdre Clancy with some gorgeous, slinky dresses for the ladies, Adam Daveline with lovely work on the mandoline (playing and singing Shaun Davey’s compositions), and Steve Rankin with great fight choreography in the wrestling match between Orlando and royal favorite Charles (Matthew Bellows).
As the Bard wrote, all’s well that ends well, and this “As You Like It” is well worth a look-see despite its unfortunate production design.
“As You Like It“ plays in rotation with ”Richard III” and “Inherit The Wind” through Sept. 30 at The Old Globe’s Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park.
See schedule online. All performances at 8 pm
For tickets, call 619-234-5623 or visit HERE.
To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.