Wednesday, May 25, 2016

As You Like It (review)

Spoilers Ahoy!

Okay, disclaimer time.  See the postcard here, for As You Like It?  I designed it and was paid for my efforts. Am actually quite pleased with how it turned out...

So you might want to take my following words with a couple of grains of salt.  Or not.  I'm pretty opinionated.

Anyway, Zombie Joe's usually does one Shakespeare (or other classic) per year and for 2016 Denise Devin directed As You Like It, the most "pastoral" of the Bard's plays.  For those who don't have a degree in theatre, that means the play is all about celebrating how lovely and honest nature can be, apart from the terrible things happening in society and politics and the like.  Wrapped up with lots of love stories.  A green rom-com in other words.  Like A Midsummer Night's Dream the show proves a frenzy of mistaken identities and misunderstandings, although in this case lacking anything like magic or fairies or ghosts.

Credit: Zombie Joe's Underground
Instead we get a world  of feuding brothers.  The Duke (Roger K. Weiss) who loses his position to his brother Frederick (Rick Berraras), fleeing to the Forest of Arden with his followers, most especially the eternally witty Jacques (Jonica Patella).

Central to the whole plot are another pair of rival brothers, the mean jealous Oliver (Zack Zoda) who neglects/hates his younger sibling Orlando (Alexander Jon), refusing to give up the lad's share of their father's estate.  In desperation, Orlando agrees to take part in a challenge of some great wrestler, and wins -- right in front of the admiring eyes of our heroine Rosalind (Micheala Slezak).  Okay, please pay attention to this next bit.  Rosalind is the daughter of the banished Duke, and bosom companion of Duke Frederick's daughter Celia (Heather McConnell).  Nasty Frederick dislikes Orlando because of his father, so warns him to go away -- without his winnings of course.  And then Frederick banishes his niece Rosalind on pain of death!

Yeah.  He's an ass-hat.

Credit: Zombie Joe's Underground
But Celia will not be parted from Rosalind so the two of them change their clothes--Rosaline dressing up like a man named "Ganymede)--and along with their favorite jester Touchstone (Jason Britt) head for the Forest of Arden.  They in fact do not know Orlando and his elderly family servant Adam (Patrick Beckstead) have likewise high-tailed it to the very same woods!

Once there, other than Touchstone falling in love with a sphepherdess named Audrey (Elif Savas), we have the merry mixup of having Orlando -- who fell in love with Rosalind instantly and hard, just as she did with him -- meeting this lad "Ganymede."  Meanwhile another shepherdess named Phebe (Monet Hendricks) has taken one look at "Ganymede" and fallen in love with "him."

And shenanigans are to be had! Honestly there's a more melancholy nuance to the play, but in order to fit into a single hour, Devin focused -- understandably and quite successfully -- on the romp.  As a result, we get an extremely entertaining romantic comedy with all of Shakespeare's (many) tricks in that regard. You the audience are meant to smile, to hope for a happy ending for all these silly nice people.  We do.  And we get it.  Sometimes with startling twists.  Lacking a frantic pace, this play and production is more like a delightful picnic instead of a fireworks display.  But who does not like a delightful picnic, complete with games and wit and laughter?

As You Like It plays Fridays at 8:30pm and Sundays at 7pm until June 19, 2016 at ZJU, 4850 Lankershim Blvd (just south of the NoHo sign), North Hollywood, CA 91601.

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