BWW Review: Guthrie's AS YOU LIKE IT Promises Hip Hop Lovers' Trysts in the Forest
Deep into the Minneapolis midwinter ice and snow, book a ticket for the Guthrie's As You Like It on the Wurtele Thrust Stage and travel to the forest. William Shakespeare's tribute to the delights and folly of love. Set in the Forest of Arden, the evening promises a brief respite to city life in this playful and complex comedy set in contemporary times under the debut Guthrie direction of Lavina Jadhwani.
Interspersed amid Shakespeare's rhymes, original music and songs captivate the audience through the forest troubadours, the creative team of Broken Chord. They serenade the banished royals along with the quartet of lover's roaming the forest in search of their paramours. Wandering in the forest with them, Duke Frederick and a spurned brother, Orlando, lament their misfortune of lost riches las they languish amid the trees and lions while lovers woo and whisper their dreams in the hushed cover of trees. .
To begin this merry mayhem, Jadhwani sets Shakespeare's 17th century play in hip hop Motown citified glory., The fight between Orlando and his huskier rival sets up the modern meet cute between Orlando and the independent Rosalind, attended to by her equally beautiful cuz Celia, The cousins kick box in athletic wear while the devoted duo also commiserates their feminine fates, especially when Celia's father, who banished Rosalind's father, also banishes Rosalind from the city.
Armed with sisterly affection, Celia and Rosalind add equal determination when they dress as a servant and man, and take off to the forest to a unknown future, even while Rosalind professes her love for Orlando. Here in the forest their costumes transform to a cross between lumberjacks and relaxed campers or hunters under Costume Designer Ilona Somogyi. The daring staging presents a lively connection to the 21st century and a jaunty sexual tension, to highlight an often burlesque-like undertone in Shakespeare's comedies.
Meghan Kreidler and Andrea San Miguel, inhabit Rosalind and Celia respectively, to capture the essence of sisterhood-even when transformed into the male Ganymede and her compatriot Aliena, The confident Kreidler centers the play with her enthusiasm in her gender bender boy disguise. San Miguel provides her with an equal actor to play off Kreidler's personality. Especially in the finale when genders return to their traditional parts, and Rosalind reminds the committed couples of love's realities.
The male counterparts, Jesse Bhamrah's Orlando, and then Luis Vega's Oliver, provide ample machismo. Strolling through the forest alongside the royalty, Shakespeare added the cynical and melancholy Jaques, who provides a dose of reality for the exiled brood. Played by Angela Timberman, the androgynous character depicts one piece of the fluid sexuality displayed in As You Like It, and she spins the famous lines "All the world's a stage. And all the men and women merely players....." with her unique twist. All the characters certainly believe in another bit of Shakespeare's inspiring advice: "Sweet are the uses of adversity."
Scenic Designer Junghyun Georgia Lee and Lighting Designer Sarah Hughey join Choreographer Tanya Birl to create a fascinating forest through simplicity and let Shakespeare's characters take center stage. Scenes change easily while the characters move amid the trees and evening lights. In great credit to the Guthrie, this Shakespeare production showcases two strong women, the role of Rosalind one of the grandest characters he wrote, and the cousins take their future into their own hands. The Guthrie's creative team combine with Shakespeare's muses with equal force.
The entertaining As You Like It asks the audience to accept that while love may occur by first sight, their might be adversity or hurdles along the way, a reality check to lovers' dreams. Equally important, harmonious determination paired with forgiveness while walking hand in hand with family or those individuals met along life's way paves a path for transformation with restoration of relationships.
Amid the imaginative sexual humor Jadhwani adds to this production, these multiple themes bear revisiting. When the Goddess Hymen (perhaps an Aretha Franklin diva might have been more congruous than an almost Beyonceé like twin), appears to bless the four happy couples on their wedding day while a daughter reunites with her father, joy, redemption and spectacle return to the stage. A sure performance winner that carries modern aesthetics to the ageless tale of the inherent delights in laughter and every variation of love.
The Guthrie Theater presents William Shakespeare's As You Like It on the Wurtele Thrust Stage through March 17. For further information on performances or tickets, please visit www.guthrietheater.org.