As You Like It is a natural crowd-pleaser and the production at BAM rises to the traditional Shakespearean hilarity: red-nosed clowning, ribaldry, girl talk as bawdy as that in Sex & the City. As directed by Sam Mendes for The Bridge Project's second season--he also directs The Tempest to open at BAM in February--the play crosses a few century's divide: part 2 opens with an instance of water boarding and, that most contemporary bard Bob Dylan is evoked. Paramount are Shakespeare's signature themes: the virtues of family and marital love, the problems of sibling rivalry.
The fine set, the urban scene represented by a dark gray wall windowed with shafts of light gives way to the sunny open bucolic, for Shakespeare's principle dramatic obsession: what makes for good leadership.
The plot involves couplings: Two brothers. One usurps the throne. The other goes into exile in the Forest of Arden. Their daughters, Rosalind and Celia, stay in court as playmates. Two younger brothers, Orlando and Oliver, also vie for power. Rosalind and Orlando fall in love. Banished from court by her uncle, Rosalind disguises herself as Ganymede, a young swain, and heads for the forest to seek her father. Scenes of mismatched lovers and irresponsible leaders ensue, until by Shakespearean magic, a pleasure to behold, all is set right.
While the ensemble is good as a whole, certain performances stand out: much acclaimed in last season's reasons to be pretty, Thomas Sadoski is a wonderful Touchstone. Coupled with the energetic Audrey (Jenni Barber), this comedy's woman of deep cleavage and tousled hair, he is a dynamic force, just as Stephen Dillane is understated as the poetic Jaques, a melancholy gentleman. Juliet Rylance is lovely and intelligent as Rosalind/ Ganymede.
This play is a must for anyone who weeps at weddings.
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