‘As you like it’Entertainment Feature Thursday, August 2nd, 2012
From the play that gave us ‘all the world’s a stage,’ comes truth, love and forgiveness
Having never seen (nor read, I’m ashamed to say) William Shakespeare’s As You Like It, and it being my first time at The Old Globe theatre, I was a double virgin coming into the experience.
I was captivated by both aspects of a recent midsummer’s eve spent in the bosom of San Diego’s cultural hearth, Balboa Park.
Imagine being lifted out of the hustle and bustle of early 21st century life and being convincingly dropped into the woodlands of early renaissance France (or a forest outside Warwickshire, England according to some Shakespearean historians). Ignoring the 1930s costumes, that was how I perceived the experience as the quintessential comedy of mistaken identities unfolded all around me and my guests.
Having by most accounts successfully played William, the Duke of Cambridge in “William and Catherine, a Royal Romance,” a 2011 Hallmark Channel production, Dan Amboyer is equally compelling as the disenfranchised heir, Orlando.
Orlando (and Amboyer in just about any role) is irresistible. His energy is intoxicating and exhausting. He is everywhere on the stage.
Ralph Funicello’s set, expertly erected in towering scale out of the tininess of set potentialities inside the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, is fully exploited by Amboyer’s fleet feet and those of his equally deft castmates.
From the barest of beginnings of wooden chairs and tables the set grows with the precision-choreographed kinetics of cast and crew. Both during the intermission and between acts the sets evolve to include a gleaming white carpet of Arden Forest snow that rolls outward magically to introduce one act, during which romance is made magic.
Orlando’s (Amboyer) love interest is a comely youth named Ganymede. At least in the Shakespearian lexis, if not also in modern language, a “youth” nearly always means a cute young guy. OK, the truth is, Orlando is not knowingly in love with a boy named Ganymede. He is, however, in love with Rosalind (Dana Green), the girl behind the boy. As it happens or, perhaps, as you like it, Rosalind has indeed had to take on the alias Ganymede as she has embarked upon her new life-in-the-raw amid the trees with her angered lord of owed-allegiance’s daughter, cousin Celia (Vivia Font) and the great Duke Fredrick’s (Happy Anderson) own jester and courtier- extraordinaire, the affable and always witty Touchstone (Joseph Marcell).
The romp through the woods that unfolds is one of unlikely kismet, unwanted crushes (farmed and cultivated in an instant), undying loyalties and unrelenting resentments. The duke hates his brother. The brother loves his brother’s enemies; love is in love with dolling out unviable romances, while forgiveness and reconciliation is in the air.
Just being at the venue is almost enough enchantment to have made the outing worth the while. I’ll never have my “first time” at The Old Globe again. But I can tell you that getting a cozy, warm throw for a $2 rental fee and curling up to watch truly world class actors perform Shakespeare at your fingertips is a thrill in itself.
Ultimately, the moment of truths and reconciliations are brought about by an unlikely ruse performed by the impossibly athletic Ganymede (Green), in which he reveals his true feminine identity to the horror of a young wench who has taken to fancying the faux youth, and to the delight, of course, of the ever-impassioned Orlando. Other revelations soon follow and the Arden Forest becomes a momentary utopia for lovers and forgivers.
The fact that As You Like is said to be one of Shakespeare’s more questionable plays in terms of quality seems silly when you see it performed by this company of professionals. Anderson, Amboyer, Font, Green and Jay Whitaker (as Orlando’s angry brother, Oliver) are consummately professional, giving their all to every scene. They could do this stuff in their sleep and still not put an audience to sleep. Before I wanted it to be, the show was over. And I was no longer a virgin to The Old Globe.
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