BWW Reviews: GA Shakespeare's AS YOU LIKE IT is a Delightful Shakespearean Cartoon
To borrow a phrase from a less-comedic Bard classic, Georgia Shakespeare's AS YOU LIKE is "a hit, a palpable hit." As has come to be expected, Courtney Patterson is exceedingly captivating as Rosalind, the show's female (and male) lead. The Suzi Bass Award winner leads this fantastic ensemble through a marvelously musical take on this story of betrayal, love-at-first-sight, and cross-dressing. With much discussion lately about women in theatre, it was exciting that Georgia Shakespeare chose a show that not only features strong female characters driving the story, but also to include women in central supporting roles that otherwise could have been portrayed by men.
Even for long-time Shakespeare viewers and readers, in going to any Bard production you run the risk of poor execution resulting in a muddied, meandering mess. However, Georgia Shakespeare's large ensemble cast not only handles the dialogue like professionals, as they should, but they also seem to imbue it with added layers of physical, character-specific humor. The text has never been as laugh-out-loud funny as MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, which Georgia Shakes did marvelously each of the last two years, but director Richard Garner and the cast finds the script's intrinsic humor, but also seem to amplify it as well.
Despite initially being allowed to reside in court after her uncle Duke Fredrick (Brian Kurlander) usurped her father (Neal A. Ghant), Rosalind and her cousin Celia (played by the wonderful Molly Coyne) flea to live in the woods with Rosalind disguised as a man. While Patterson is her usual spectacular self, Coyne is the revelation of this production. In her debut season with Georgia Shakespeare, Coyne proves more than capable of navigating both the dramatic and comedic elements of the character, all the while providing violin accompaniment throughout the show. The pairing of Patterson and Coyne is an inspired casting decision that I hope becomes a Georgia Shakespeare staple.
I would be remiss not to also mention the always phenomenal Ann Marie Gideon, in the Act Two role of Phebe, a backwoods shepherdess who falls madly in love with Ganymede, Rosalind's male alter ego. In a much bawdier part than last season's Hero, Gideon adds an extra punch of comic relief in an already funny show. Her chemistry with Patterson is one of the highlights of the show.
Two-time Suzi winner Joe Knezevich is delightfully evil as the dastardly Oliver, and Travis Smith (yet another Suzi winner) plays his much-maligned younger brother Orlando, who falls instantly in love with Rosalind, after defeating a luchador-masked Charles (Marcello Audino) in a wrestling match. Allan Edwards brings an extra layer of levity as the fool Touchstone, and Chris Kayser continues to astound as the melancholy lord, Jaques, who delivers the play's most famous monologue, the "All the World's a Stage" speech.
Finally, also of particular note are Georgia Shakespeare newcomers Devon Hales (Amiens) and Paige Keane (Shepherdess). As a charming pair of woodland troubadours, they add humor, longing, and romance through their songs. The show's composer Kendall Simpson makes excellent use of Shakespeare's words and his comedies' natural inclination towards musicality.
The production, which earlier this month was seen in Piedmont Park as this year's instalment of Shakespeare in the Park, features a set by Kat Conley that brilliantly transforms from a METROPOLIS-like monolith into a playful forest with one fell swoop.
In many ways, the show plays like a Shakespearean Loony Tunes cartoon. Our heros being chased by outlandish bad guys through scenes full of bright colors, meeting over-the-top characters on their journey, and providing loads of physical and visual humor along the way. Do not miss the opportunity to see what will surely be one of the highlights of your summer. You can get tickets online or by calling 404-504-1473. AS YOU LIKE IT runs through June 29th at the Conant Center at Oglethorpe University.
Photo Credit: Greg Mooney