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'As You Like It': Inconsistency slows this visit to the Forest of Arden
A review of Seattle Shakespeare Company's production of "As You Like It," running through June 24, 2012. George Mount directs.
Seattle Times theater critic
'As You Like It'By William Shakespeare. A Seattle Shakespeare Company production, through June 24, Center House Theatre, Seattle Center; $22-$38 (206-733-8222 or www.seattleshakespeare.org).
Garbed in tall, powdered wigs and gaudy satin gowns, the Rosalind and Celia in Seattle Shakespeare Company's "As You Like It" might have just come from an audience with the Sun King at the Palace of Versailles.
It's a novel look for the young BFFs in Shakespeare's romantic comedy. And it suggests that these pretty soon-to-be outcasts dwell in a society that puts a high value on social artifice and frippery. Even when Rosalind (Hana Lass) and Celia (Rebecca Olson) flee the oppressive court of Celia's father, Duke Frederick, into the Forest of Arden, they drag heavy suitcases.
Director George Mount makes a thoughtful point in this basically pleasant staging of one of Shakespeare's most-performed comedies. Others follow, but they don't cohere into a theme or thesis that elevates the production out of the ordinary.
The bifurcated tale that pits life in an oppressive court versus life in the natural world is one of the more challenging of the Bard's comedies. It is loaded with memorable speeches ("All the world's a stage" is most familiar) and sparkling banter. But the tone and action are split. And the daring, cross-dressing heroine and her largely passive and pliable suitor make a lopsided pair.
Seattle Shakes maintains its high standard of ease with classical text. There's much to like about Lass as a dashing lad, when Rosalind goes incognito in liberating male guise. And while Celia is second fiddle to her cousin Roz, Olson brings an amusing, lusty assertiveness to the part.
Sagacious David Pichette clearly relishes the role of Jacques, the melancholy wit of the exiled court of Rosalind's father (Duke Senior, played with poise by Keith Dahlgren). And as the sly jester Touchstone, Darragh Kennan once again excels at making elaborate wordplay comprehensible to modern ears.
So something's missing here, some more consistent sense of ensemble.
There's also some tentative acting — Nathan Smith's Orlando is an attractive, ardent lover, but rather stiff earlier on. And some overeager hamming too. (David Brown King's Silvius is the worst offender).
Other elements don't quite mesh either. Craig B. Wollam's forest set framed by birch trees is lovely, if more decorative than interactive. Doris Black's costumes can give pause. (A velvet dressing gown as everyday outdoor wear?) Sarah McGuinn's music strikes an interestingly offbeat chord that enhances the story only in a dreamlike choral number.
Taken one by one, aspects and performances of Mount and company's rendering are laudable, and the show isn't a bore. One just wishes it added up to a richer version of a classic that's oft-produced, but hard to unpack.
Misha Berson: email@example.com