Out of the woods

As You Like It

By William Shakespeare
Directed by John Basil
The American Globe Theatre
145 West 46th Street (869-9809)
Equity showcase (closes Nov. 22)
Review by Steve Gold

In utilizing a 1590 novel by Thomas Lodge, Shakespeare fashioned a comedy rich in creamy poetry, rollicking wordplay, and timeless wisdom. All of these elements were on full display in The American Globe Theatre's satisfying production of As You Like It.

Blame it all on love--and villainy. Duke Frederick (Robert Bowen Jr.) has exiled his brother, Duke Senior (Roland Sands), to the forest of Arden. For good measure, he sends Rosalind (Elizabeth Keefe), Duke Senior's daughter, to join him. Rosalind's loyal cousin Celia (Melissa Hill), who is Frederick's daughter, accompanies her to Arden. Meanwhile, Orlando (Trent Dawson) is having a difficult time with his older brother Oliver (Rainard Rachele) because he, Orlando, feels that Oliver has cheated him out of his inheritance. Oliver is not amused by Orlando's accusation; he plots to murder him. Orlando escapes to Arden, but before doing so manages to fall in love with Rosalind and she with him. Their subsequent adventure in the forest forms the basis of a gloriously dizzy fable that ends with a whopper of a deus ex machina.

Clearly, director John Basil was not intimidated by the story's unwieldiness: his cast of 18 were well-prepared; they spoke their lines with clarity and brio, and the evening breezed by without any roadblocks. The overall acting style made this As You Like It distinctly American, a fact which might have been more problematic had Mr. Basil chosen to stage, say, one of the history plays. But it worked well here, and the various relationships were persuasively established by the actors. To wit, Ms. Hill and Ms. Keefe were charming as the devoted cousins; likewise the portrayal of the nascent romance between Rosalind and Orlando. Mr. Rachele authentically conveyed Oliver's malevolence toward Orlando. As Duke Senior, Roland Sands was commanding in an effortless way; and Richard Fay had an amusingly wry turn as Jaques, one of Duke Senior's followers--his recital of the "Seven Ages" speech was quite funny and ultimately moving. Andre Dell and Karina Lynch made a boisterous Silvius and Phebe - Shakespeare's satirical comment on country bumpkinism. Jay Alvarez contributed a frisky Touchstone, the play's fool and unofficial critic. As Adam, Oliver's decent, badly treated servant who saves Orlando's life by warning him of Oliver's intentions, Ryohei Hoshi shone. In the small role of Corin, an old shepherd, John D'Arcangelo was thoughtful and gentle. In addition, several other actors had multiple roles which were handled with skill and minimal fuss.

James A. Bazewicz conjured up a striking set consisting of a winding staircase leading to a bridge--replete with a Roman arch or two--which extended almost the entire width of the stage before abruptly sloping down to the ground, as if it had been wrecked in a storm. To suggest the forest of Arden, he cleverly placed hanging strips of knotted cloth about the stage. Jacqueline Lowry's lighting and Cathy Maguire's costumes added favorably to the mix, as did David Pinkard's modernist-sounding music. The early fight scene between Orlando and Charles the wrestler (Robert Chaney) was gracefully choreographed by Dan O'Driscoll.

(Also featuring Nick Anselmo, Erika Becker, Curtis Harwell, Meilan Smith and Alex White.)

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 2
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 1998 Steve Gold