William Shakespeare’s adorable comedy As You Like It will be brought to life at the Ahmanson Theatre from the present through March 26th. Sir Peter Hall, winner of multiple Tony-Awards, directs the Theatre Royal Bath with the lead of Rosalind going to his daughter, Rebecca Hall.
As You Like It is surely one of Shakespeare’s most endearing comedies. One cannot help but fall in love with his Rosalind, who seems to possess an endless store of wit. She exemplifies the ideal lover because, while smitten with the manly – if sometimes awkward – Orlando (energetically played by Dan Stevens), yet has the wisdom not to take love too seriously. She revels in teasing her wooer, but does not adopt the off-putting cynical attitude we so often find in the modern lover. Rosalind “sees through” love and so achieves wisdom, but does not remain aloof and has a soul whole enough to allow herself to fall in love.
As for this particular version of the immortal play, it does an adequate job, but did not rally enough energy from the witty lines to make up for a rather slow plot. Part of the fault must lie with the poorly educated audience who strugged to understand Shakespearean English. Yet, much of the cast could not aid our lack. Rebecca Hall’s portrayal of Rosalind didn’t cut it. She used a voice that came off as whiney – completely inappropriate for Shakespeare’s most alive female role. The bounce and playfulness one would expect from Rosalind did not shine through.
Her lackluster performance, however, was compensated for by a funny Touchstone (played by Michael Siberry), Orlando as aforementioned, and an appropriately cynical and wise Jaques (Philip Voss).
To the company’s credit, they played this performance straight. They did not give into the temptation to play up the homosexual angle when Rosalind cross-dresses as Ganymede and asks Orland to woo her. Instead, the situation created funny, awkward moments that were tastefully pulled off.
The early 21st century apparel and minimalist set did not particularly help to interpret the play, though it did not detract from it either. The one unique angle was to portray the usurping Duke Frederick as a totalitarian leader.
One of my favorite scenes in the play was when the big wits, Jaques and Rosalind, meet. Rosalind completely outdid Jaques, a very gratifying scene that on an allegorical level shows that smarts don’t necessitate angst. Hall did not deliver the spark I expected, but nevertheless the scene is pleasing for one who believes that head and heart can be united in the same soul.
A student discount is available as are public rush tickets, which make this trip to a trendy downtown L.A. spot affordable. Advice to the college types: this is a great Valentine’s day date! My wife thoroughly enjoyed it when I told her to get dressed up and surprised her!
Sir Peter Hall’s version of As You Like It is a good introduction for those unfamiliar with the play and is a great bit of culture, so I encourage L.A. area readers to attend. This performance is human, but to see Shakespeare in downtown L.A. is divine!