BWW Reviews: AS YOU LIKE IT in Rowayton

Since Shakespeare on the Sound brought affordable, professional open-air productions of Shakespeare's plays to Rowayton's Pinkney Park, it has had a few very nice imitators. But if you catch this year's production of As You Like It - and you really should - you will see how it makes the others pale in comparison.

OK, so this pastoral comedy is one of Shakespeare's most beloved plays. It's hard not to please audiences. Synopsis: Boy meets girl. Girl's father is banished. Boy is forced to flee. Girl and cousin flee and disguise themselves. Girl finds Boy. Families are reconciled. Four marriages. Everyone is happy. It's a comedy, after all.

So what makes this production so terrific? For starters, director Claire Shannon Kelly brings an ingenious spirit to the play as well as deft risk-taking. She makes it fun, fresh and stimulating. She totally gets the intricacies of the play, and makes sure the audience does, too. Let's face it. We all know some people who don't talk to their families, but outright banishing them from a county is going kind of far. While Kelly and the superb actors, all of whom speak Shakespeare as if they are having ordinary conversations, tap into that intensity, they bring a welcome lightness. And music. Lots of music. (And they sing well together.) The actors wear modern attire and the production almost looks like its own BoHo festival, especially with the guitar, tambourine and ukuleles.

Kudos to 22Q Entertainment for its perfect casting, most notably Katie Wieland as Rosalind, Medina Senghore as Celia, Chris Chaffari as Orlando. David Gautschy as Touchstone was a delight, and Tom Butterworth as Adam and Corin, Matthew Dalton Lynch as LeBeau and Jacques, Iris McQuillan-Grace as Phebe, and Andy Baldeschwiler as the two dukes were excellent. Elena Kritter played multiple roles, but was glorious as Hymen as she officiated at the nuptials. Olivia Winn, Beatrice Kelly and Thomas Kelly were a joy to watch as the children of the court and forest. Christopher Smalley, Mike Bloom, Tom Pecinka, Paula Galloway and Daniel Levitt rounded out the cast.

This production is first rate. Change your vacation plans, if you must, so you can see this production. The only thing to keep in mind is that it is a very long show. The first act is one hour and 20 minutes and the second act is 55 minutes. Children (and some adults) are not going to make it through the second act. Those who hang in there will be amply awarded with Michele Elliman's choreography, Brian Feinstein's music and Frederick Alden Terry's arrangements and orchestrations. (Somebody please record this cast singing music that's appropriate for Shakespeare's time!)

As You Like It runs through June 30 at Pinkney Park in Rowayton, Connecticut. Suggested donations are $20.00 for adults and $10.00 for students and seniors. New Yorkers, it's a 10 minute walk to the park. Rowayton is tiny, but packed with good things.

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From This Author Sherry Shameer Cohen