BWW Review: AS YOU LIKE IT at Southwest Shakespeare Company
The great thing about Shakespeare is that it can be done "as you like it". There is no set way to present a Shakespeare play, no convention that is required in order for the audience to understand it. In this fantastic production of As You Like It, the exiled Duke is turned into a Duchess, there is only one Jaques, and the final scene includes an all-out choreographed dance number. The road to self-discovery is different for everyone and As You Like It serves as a reminder of this truth.
As Orlando, Phillip Herrington is excellent. He displays physical strength, strength of character, and the beauty of love. Herrington has fantastic chemistry with Betsy Mugavero, who plays Orlando's love interest, Rosalind. Despite Rosalind spending most of the show as her male alter-ego, Ganymede, their love story is believable as they learn about the yearning and despair of love. Mugavero is energetic and delivers her substantial and difficult lines with gusto. She shares the stage frequently with Racquel Mckenzie who plays Rosalind's cousin and best friend, Celia. Mckenzie is wonderful. She shares a sweet chemistry with Mugavero and is a welcome presence on stage.
Orlando has several complicated relationships throughout the show. His servant Adam, played by Jim Coates, offers sage advice and warnings to Orlando, and is the closest thing Orlando has to a father. Coates is amazing no matter what character he is inhabiting. He lights up the stage with his presence. Orlando's older brother, Oliver, is played by Drew Leatham. At the beginning of the show, Leatham is quite sinister, but has a complete change of heart and offers Orlando advice in the matters of love.
Duke Frederick has usurped his sister's throne and is threatened by the loss of his power which is what leads him to exile Rosalind. The Duke is played by Beau Heckman to menacing perfection. The Duke has a profound change of heart in the Forest of Arden and Heckman handles the change with skill and finesse. As a member of the Duke's court, Le Beau serves to warn other characters and deliver words of wisdom to the audience. Le Beau is brought to life by Clay Sanderson. He provides several of the comedic moments as does Jeff Deglow who plays Touchstone. With a nasal delivery and a controlled physicality, Deglow is genius.
The residents of the Forest of Arden live freely and without care. Except for Jaques who is plagued by his own thoughts and the follies of men. Jaques is played by Kyle Sorrell and he is outstanding. He sings, plays the guitar, and delivers his lines with thoughtful precision. As the Duchess, Megan Lindsey is regal and harmonious. She reigns over the other residents of the forest, despite having lost her throne. Her subjects join in the merriment and singing which brings a pastoral air to the production. The ensemble again plays several roles which brings humor and merriment to the production. The show is charming, erethreal, and well-acted. Directed by Quinn Mattfeld, the stage undergoes subtle changes as the forest overtakes the stage. Mattfeld uses strategically placed barrels, boxes, the stairs, and the aisles of the theater which allows the audience to feel like residents of the Forest of Arden.
Photo provided courtesy of Southwest Shakespeare and Durant Photography