Adam J. Smith’s amped, hi-fi comedy of Touchstone, Abigail Marks’ Celia and Tony Amendola’s, Jacques turn around a lackluster commencement of one of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies, for a thoroughly resonant and delightful finale at the 2nd opening night of Antaeus Theatre Company’s production of As You Like It, at the Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center in Glendale.
As You Like It follows Rosalind (Julia Davis) as she flees persecution in her uncle’s court, disguised as a boy, accompanied by her cousin Celia, to find safety in the Forest of Arden. But not before suddenly falling stone-cold-in-love, with the man of her dreams, Orlando (Daisuke Tsuji), also fleeing from his own malice on the home front. And of course, lot’s of silly shenanigans of amour, wooing and confusion, abound all over the forest, tapestried with desperately but horribly written, romantic poems by Orlando, who is completely unaware of Rosalind’s facade, and culminate with marriages and happy endings for most everyone.
As part of the program notes, Director Rob Clare remarks, “The words of the playwright speak so clearly for themselves, and in such a universal language.”
Indeed, they do, and through the Antaeus Acorns cast who are particularly deft in acclimating the audience to the language of Shakespeare. The absolute clarity with which every actor delivers the over 400 years old script embraces audience ears with such contemporary precision as to almost sound extemporaneous.
The glitch though, is that there isn’t much chemistry between almost any of them leaving one to wonder, whether or not this was the last thought, or any at all, in the casting. Or, in this case, did the partners casting, which is rather a brilliant mechanism for stage on most other occasions, finally meet a challenge too difficult to overcome.
One could argue that saying the words, with a full understanding of the text, using the resonance of the sounds and taking Shakespeare’s already built-in direction of his works, and a director who is an internationally recognized Shakespeare specialist, should be plenty to carry the pastoral parody which has provably held the test of time. But it sure helps the gallery feel immersed inside a rather rambunctious romp such as this when we believe the sizzle from the seats.
All told, though, by the 2nd act, many complications evaporate, the static set disappears, the indeterminable costume styles become irrelevant, the characters get motivated and the production finds an unmistakable groove. (As we like it!)