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As You Like It by William Shakespeare (Guthrie Theater, Vineland Place Minneapolis)

The cast of the Guthrie Theater production of William Shakespeare's As You Like It, directed by Joe Dowling.
Photo © Michal Daniel, 2005

Directed by Joe Dowling

Runs through April 17th

Review by Migued Trejo

Groovy Times in the Forest of Arden

The sun has kissed the ice goodbye. Soon the brown sleeping earth will blossom into a kaleidoscope of color. Spring is here and the Guthrie has the appropriate play to herald its return.

In a joyful production of “As You Like It”, the Guthrie has transported Shakespeare’s famous play about the search for love, freedom, and happiness from 17th century Elizabethan England to the 1960s – for many a time of experimentation, social change, and spiritual discovery. There couldn’t be a more perfect fit.

Here is the briefest of synopses: deposed by his younger brother, the Duke takes refuge in the Forest of Arden accompanied by a royal loyal few. Rosalind, protected by her cousin, is allowed to remain. However, when she falls in love with Orlando, the youngest son of one of the former Duke’s allies, she is herself banished. Disguising herself as a man, she flees to the forest with her cousin, Celia, and Touchstone, a court clown. There she happens upon her father and Orlando; undercover she endeavors to test Orlando’s love. At the end of the play, love and good cheer reign supreme, all wrongs are righted and everyone seems to be getting married.

The creative team, led by director Joe Dowling, has created an environment that puts the play into a familiar context. Helen Q. Huang’s costumes emphasize the differences between the cold life of the court – tight, posh, affected high fashion - and the warm earthiness of Arden – brown furs and leathers with a Native American feel. The transition from court to forest and later from winter to spring is further supported by the sets designed by James Noone. The court is a world of harsh straight angles and geometric shapes while the forest is one of curves and smooth surfaces. Snow falls but when spring arrives, the universe explodes into a psychedelic mix of bright colors. Composer Mel Marvin gives Shakespeare’s songs a folksy feeling that makes you clap your hands and sway with its soulful tones.
These design elements strike a chord even in the minds of audience members too young to have lived during the 1960s.

Working like an ensemble that has been together for years, the actors move and speak with masterful ease. The language shines like the star that it should be. While every actor deserves praise, Bianca Amato and Drew Cortese, playing Rosalind and Orlando, merit special recognition. Amato lends to her character an expressive face, excellent comic timing, and a youthful energy; faithfully embodying the wit, vitality, and exuberance of Rosalind. Her romantic counterpart Orlando is played by Cortese with an openness and clarity which serve the constancy and strength of his character. Their chemistry onstage is hard to forget.

Overall, “As You Like It” is boisterous, lighthearted, funny, and everything else you might look for in a comedy. Throughout the play, its characters poetically consider the nature of love and life. The famous “all the world’s a stage” monologue, delivered by Richard S. Iglewski playing Jacques, is one of most touching and profound moments I’ve experienced in theatre. The Guthrie has put together a superlative production. If you don’t see this show you’ll miss a wrestling match that would put the WWF to shame, a Supreme and glamorous goddess Hymen, and far-out metal trees with groovy tops – to name a few.

Miguel Trejo is at miguel.trejo@howwastheshow.com

As You Like It runs through April 17th. For tickets call the box office at 612-377-2224 or Toll-free: 1-877-44STAGE.