The Christian Science Monitor,
July 24, 1992"A Likable Staging of 'As You Like It'"
by David Sterritt
The new production of "As You Like It" at the Delacorte Theater
in Central Park marks a couple of milestones. For one, it opens the 30th
season of free Shakespeare plays in this perennially pleasant outdoor
setting. For another, it marks the 20th installment in the ambitious "See
All of Shakespeare" marathon launched a few years ago by the late
Perhaps most important, it proves that a superbly produced
high-culture enterprise like this can survive and even flourish despite
the challenges of a depressed economy and a political atmosphere that has
often seemed hostile to the arts in recent years. Chief credit goes to
Mr. Papp, who built the New York Shakespeare Festival into the energetic
institution it is today, and JoAnne Akalaitis, the imaginative artistic
director who now serves as his chosen successor.
This praise might seem
misplaced if the festival's current offering were not of very high quality.
Happily, it's a winner in almost every respect-- wholly true to the spirit
of Shakespeare's comedy, yet fetchingly contemporary in its clever visual
ideas and flashes of mischievous wit.
On one hand, nature reigns supreme
in the show, with live sheep and chickens flanking a renovated stage area
that provides an exquisite view of Central Park's greenery in the
background. On the other hand, modern technology pays unexpected visits,
when an antique jalopy and a farm-fresh tractor chug amusingly into view
at carefully timed moments.
The performances careen all over the
chronological map, meanwhile, from the ripe Elizabethan inflections of
Donald Moffat, as Touchstone the clown, to the latter-day drawl of Siobhan
Fallon, as Phebe the shepherdess. Gluing together the mix of styles and
shticks is Elizabeth McGovern-- always a first-rank comic actress, and
deliciously at home with the trousers-wearing heroine, Rosalind.
Hall, longtime head of the Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, R.I.,
has directed the early scenes in an uninvolving way that makes the overall
vigor of the production even more exciting once the main characters reach
the Forest of Arden and the multiple wooings and winnings of the comedy
commence in earnest.
In addition to orchestrating the performances into a
smoothly flowing ensemble, his most impressive achievement is to make
consistently creative use of the large outdoor space at his disposal. He
spreads out some scenes expansively, yet smartly condenses others into a
more intimate arrangement, such as the fireside setting for the famous "All
the world's a stage" speech, which is splendidly delivered by Richard
Libertini as Jacques the attendant.
Others in the cast include Jake Weber
as Orlando, the Duke's youngest son; John Scanlon as Adam, the creaky old
servant; Kathryn Meisle as Celia, who adventures with Rosalind in the
forest; and the talented Larry Bryggman, typically solid as the usurper who sets the story in motion. Melinda Root's costumes are beguilingly
colorful amid Eugene Lee's scenery-- not since James Lapine customized the
landscape several years ago has the Delacorte looked more entrancing - and
Richard Cumming composed the sprightly music.
In sum, this "As You
Like It" is likable indeed. It continues through July 26, to be
followed by No. 21 in the marathon, "The Comedy of Errors,"
scheduled for Aug. 6-30 under Brazilian director Caca Rosset, with Larry
Block and Elizabeth Franz.
Copyright 1992 The Christian Science Publishing