Review | As You Like It: true love in exile

Guthrie Theater, through March 17

Ensemble in AS YOU LIKE IT.

In the Twin Cites we take good theatre almost for granted. Even so, this has been an exceptionally fine winter season. From provocative new plays like The Children and The Father at the Jungle and Gremlin Theatres to A Little Night Music at Theatre Latte Da, one can now add Shakespeare’s As You Like It on the Guthrie‘s thrust stage to the list of very good 2019 productions. Considering that each of the plays has casts chockfull of local actors demonstrates just how large the pool of local talent is.

The Guthrie’s As You Like It directed by Lavina Jadhwani is an updated affair. A glitzy party scene opens the play followed by a visit to the gym before action shifts to the Forest of Arden as tyrannical Duke Frederick banishes, or alienates, much of his court. Costumes (kudos to designer Ilona Smogyl) turn from fur, dinner jackets and chic workout togs to bomber caps, buffalo plaid, and heavy overalls as characters are forced to create false identities to survive.

Rulers who overreach their authority and people who become alienated in their own land have parallels to today. But the core of As You Like It is timeless love. Wooings, couplings and betrothals abound once the play shifts to a wintery setting on the “skirts of the wildwood.”

Rosalind/Ganymede (Meghan Kreilder) and her heartthrob, Orlando (Jesse Bhamrah) are the central couple in the play. They are backed by an able cast including Nathaniel Fuller and Max Wojtanowicz both in double roles. Sun Mee Chomet bristles in her role as scornful Phoebe. Andrea San Miguel, making her Guthrie debut as Rosalind’s sidekick, has first rate comic timing and hopefully we will see more of her in the future.

Costumes, quick pacing and some generous cuts to the script keep the play moving. This production highlights the comedy in Shakespeare’s play, not the philosophizing. The usually somber Jaques (Angela Timberman) ranges hither and yon as she delivers the famous “All the world’s a stage” speech. Her Jaques is more manic than melancholy; more witty than wise.

In As You Like It the couples discover their lovemates as spring arrives. Mellow-voiced Christiana Clark as Hymen appears as a stunning Earth mother/fertility goddess to bless the wedding ceremonies and sets all things aright. A final tip of the hat must go to Sarah Agnew in her role as Touchstone. She’s a bit dazed and more than a little silly, perfect for this silly fun production.

Please check out Mari’s informational website: marionswittenbreer.

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