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Review: Much to love in AS YOU LIKE IT at La Jolla Playhouse

Review: Much to love in AS YOU LIKE IT at La Jolla Playhouse

Playing through December 11th

The talented cast of AS YOU LIKE IT, now playing at La Jolla Playhouse through December 11th proves how false it is when other places say that casting in a representative way is too difficult to do. With lively performances and songs, along with gorgeous costumes, and scenery, there is much to love in this romantic comedy.

With a cast of transgender, nonbinary and queer performers the play is sparkling, loving, and energetic as co-directed by Christopher Ashley and Will Davis, and produced in association with Diversionary Theatre.

The show opens in the severe court of Frederick, a cruel ruler who has usurped his brother's rightful place as Duke and sees potential treachery everywhere. Not even his daughter Celia (Jen Richards), and his niece Rosalind (Peter Smith) are free of suspicion. The court counts wrestling as entertainment, and a young nobleman named Orlando (Esco Jouléy) has come to make a name for himself. While there he spies Rosalind and the two are instantly smitten.

Review: Much to love in AS YOU LIKE IT at La Jolla Playhouse

When Rosalind is banished from her uncle's court, she and Celia flee to the forest of Arden where her father (the true Duke) has made his home after his brother's takeover. In contrast, the forest is brightly colored, and lush, and everyone seems to relish in the freedom from the oppression of someone telling them how to best live their lives.

They assume disguises for their safety and Rosalind becomes a poor young man named Ganymede, while Celia poses as Aliena, the sister to Ganymede. They are also accompanied by the court jester Touchstone (Cody Sloane), who provides much humor and acts as their reluctant luggage handler.

Meanwhile, Orlando also finds himself in the forest to escape his murderous older brother Oliver (Tairekca L.A.), but Orlando never forgets about Rosalind. Orlando decorates trees with poetry of dubious quality, and Rosalind relishes the bravado as Ganymede offers to help school Orlando in ways of wooing and winning a young maid like Rosalind.

Music, mischief, and mayhem all follow as multiple couples meet and the audience waits to see if love truly conquers all.

Smith is both lovely as the gentle lady Rosalind and confident as Ganymede, who comes to find that deconstructing her traditional female gender role allows her both to be more herself and win the heart of her love. Jouléy is both brash and bashful as the infatuated Orlando, not afraid to fight for what they want and also adorably tongue-tied when face to face with Rosalind. Additional gentle humor and romance are supplied by Richards as the sweet Celia who is a balance to the fierce L.A. as Oliver.

Review: Much to love in AS YOU LIKE IT at La Jolla Playhouse

A lot of humor is provided by Sloan as the clown Touchstone, along with Jess Barbagallo as the hopelessly in love shepherd Silvius, who bears some comically outsized affections for Alanna Darby's flirty shepherdess Phoebe. Rami Margron brings energy to the melancholy philosopher Jacques, and Rachel Crowl is a triple threat as the dastardly Frederick, sweetly comedic as the shepherd Corin, and plays music with the band.

The show also boasts multiple musical numbers and is led by the talented T. Carlis Roberts who also plays multiple instruments throughout the piece.

The costuming by Mel Ng is contemporary, and reflects the intensity of Frederick's court. The court is rigid black and white, with a gorgeous and cinched coat for Frederick, while Rosalind is compressed and corseted into compliance. Sloan's Touchstone also has beautifully expressive costuming for his position in court and in the forest.

The scenic design by Emmie Finckel is bright and fantastical, and along with lighting by Cha See, sound design by Ien DeNio, wig and makeup design by Alberto Alvarado, and intimacy staging and fight choreography by Chelsea Pace bring everything together.

AS YOU LIKE IT is a pastoral romantic comedy, but it also reflects how vital it is to live a life free of oppression from others and to be your authentic self in love and safety. It is as valuable a reminder today as ever.

How to Get Tickets

AS YOU LIKE IT playing at La Jolla Playhouse through December 11th. For ticket and show time information go to www.lajollaplayhouse.org

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Rich Soublet II



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