"People fall in love so quickly here"

As You Like It

Book by Doug DeVita
Music and lyrics by Paul L. Johnson
From the play by William Shakespeare
Directed and choreographed by Jason Summers
Vital Children's Theatre
The McGinn-Cazale Theater
2162 Broadway 4th fl. (www.theatermania.com; 212/352-3101; 866/811-4111)
Non-union production (closes May 15)
Review by Deborah S. Greenhut

The Vital Children's Theatre's production of As You Like It took to heart Shakespeare's adage, "All the world's a stage," in a delightfully tuneful production, adapted for a hip family audience by Doug DeVita. The fourth wall dissolved quickly as the cast mingled comfortably and frequently with the audience to accentuate the playful disguise motifs of Shakespeare's romance.

Enchantment began with the excellent set design (Jenna Rossi-Camus) -- an engaging unit of mobile trees decked with heart-shaped foliage. Among the trees hung the multiple disguises that power the plot and comedy of As You Like It. Director/choreographer Jason Summers introduced all theatre conventions gently. At the opening, the enthusiastic actors completed their costume changes on stage, then delivered a rapid operetta-style plot summary à la Gilbert and Sullivan, featuring excellent choreography and fun wordplay coupled with musical quotes from numerous other Broadway and television shows. All was wittily served up by Paul Johnson's music and lyrics. Rossi-Camus's costumes featured punk-style pinks and purples at the beginning, which facilitated character recognition. The action was complemented by Carrie Yacono's well-embroidered lighting.

Borrowing appropriately from Shakespeare's more familiar love sonnets, DeVita's adaptation depicted the sexual confusions of the original in a tactful and appealing way by condensing the plot to develop five characters, plus their disguises. Rosalind, engagingly played by Marija Reiff, is driven from her cruel uncle's court. She disguises herself as a boy, Ganymede, in order to hide in the forest of Arden with her cousin Celia (Elise Marie). Complications develop as Rosalind cannot reveal herself to her true love, Orlando (Jason Forbach), who has hidden in the forest to escape the murderous plot of his brother, Oliver (Chris Janssen). Their brotherly wrestling match, highlighted by exceptional tumbling, provided one of the best moments of this glad-all-over production. The wise fool Touchstone (Noah Longo) rounded out the ensemble. Their moral? Just, go with it!

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 2
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2005 Deborah S. Greenhut