Theater At Monmouth: “As You Like It” (REVIEW)

Posted Friday, August 8, 2014 in Culture

by Andi Parkinson

Sometimes, it is hard to pinpoint why one doesn’t particularly care for a play, even when the performance itself was well acted, entertaining and an enjoyable venture out of the house on a pleasant summer’s evening. And yet that is where I find myself, trying to write about “As You Like It”.

Apparently mine is not a singular reaction along this vein to this rather popular Shakespearean work; others have panned it too. So I find myself somewhat consoled that the likes of Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw (who in discussing it called the work “As YOU Like It”, stressing the fact that he himself did not) also came away thinking that Ole Bill had phoned it in on this effort.

Please don’t get me wrong- the complexities were well built as there was great character development with clear understanding of each’s motivations. From the beginning introductions of the main characters, we see what drives them and the challenges they will face, the bonds they share of love and friendship, and the overall tempo of the play moves right along well enough.

 

Amiens (aka James Noel Hoban) and Company in the Forest of Arden in TAM's 2014 production of As You Like It. Directed by Catherine Weidner. Photo by Rene MInnis.  (Via TAM FB page)

Amiens (aka James Noel Hoban) and Company in the Forest of Arden in TAM’s 2014 production of As You Like It. Directed by Catherine Weidner. Photo by Rene MInnis. (Via TAM FB page)

The TAM cast was magnificent, the production crew did some terrific stuff (I especially liked the silly magical “PING!” with accompanying bright light flash, signifying an instant falling in love by various characters) and truly did wonderful work with the play itself, which tells a complicated and multi-faceted tale of struggles within families, differences within classes and how those differences reinforce one’s view of the world and its participants, heroes and heroines fighting for justice while others overcome human failings such as jealousy to become more good-hearted and generous, with many intertwining love stories folded in for good measure.

 

There is adventure with challenges, disguised characters and intrigue, plenty of dancing and period music with lyrics that help tell the story, and some of the most iconic and well known Shakespearean lines ever uttered (“All the world’s a stage- And all the men and women merely players…”) (“I met a fool i’ the forest,
A motley fool”
), and the character of Rosalind/ Ganymede (Erica Murphy) serves as an emotional and purposeful examination of gender roles that is thought provoking.

And maybe all of that, when smooshed together as it was, is part of why this play just didn’t click for me.

Setting aside obvious recycled snips lifted from his own previous work, Shakespeare slung together a play with just so much action, so many plots, so many characters with their own quandaries and unrequited love issues that weren’t always necessary to drive the story, making their late additions appear superfluous. The eventual resolution of all the convoluted layers and predicaments happened so quickly and too easily- to “wind it down and call it a day”. What should have felt clever instead felt forced, with an epilogue that rather than clarify could have been interpreted as an apology by the author for his haste.

Eh. Move over, Mr. Shaw…

Cast (in order of appearance)

Orlando: Michael Dix Thomas
Adam: Wendy Way
Oliver: Leighton Samuels
Charles/ 
Sir Martex: Max Waszak
Celia: Lindsay Tornquist
Rosalind: Erica Murphy
Touchstone: Graham Emmons
Madam LeBeau: Janis Stevens
Duke Frederick/
Duke Senior: Mark S. Cartier
Duke’s Man/
Musician: Turner Frankosky
Jaques: Will Harrell
Phebe: Lisa Woods
Silvius: Ryan Simpson
Corin/ 
Hymen: Bill Van Horn
Amiens: James Noel Hoban
Audrey: Denise Cormier

Production Team

Set Designer: Dan Bilodeau
Costume Designer: Jonna Klaiber
Lighting Designer: Cecilia Durbin
Sound Designer: Rew Tippen
Fight Director: Paul Dennhardt
Fight Captain: Max Waszak
Stage Managers: Jeff Meyers
Melissa A. Nathan

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