Los Angeles Theater Review: AS YOU LIKE IT (Antaeus Theatre Company in Glendale)

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by Dale Reynolds on August 2, 2017

in Theater-Los Angeles


At its new home in Glendale, Antaeus Theatre’s second play, As You Like It, is an odd duck of a production. As is its norm, Antaeus “partner-casts” each production, so patrons may go twice to see a completely different cast, both of which rehearsed at the same time. The companies are labeled “The Acorns” and “The Peascods” (and even those get mixed on Thursday and Friday performances into the “Atomies”). Directed by Shakespearean expert Rob Clare, the actors are impeccable in their diction, rhythm and scansion of text (for which we may thank coach Elizabeth Swain, who knows her way around Elizabethan Theatre). Clare handles his actors with an academic’s iron rod, making both casts verbally fluid and energetic. While most of the comedy is subdued, the play’s wit was fully on display.

This romantic comedy begins as a drama, with two evil lords who have banished their own brothers, one older, the other younger, usurping their lands and fortunes. As their aristocratic followers have been banished as well, both sets of refugees end up in the fictional Forests of Arden. (In France? Blame the period where country rivalries were rife, although the forest could be based in the NE section of France, the Ardennes.)

The play, most likely written in 1598 or 1599, uses a vast rural forest, set away from any corrupting royal courts, as a special place that allows challenges to gender roles (there’s cross-dressing) and some confused same-sex attractions, which then allow for sexual freedoms that nonetheless end in conventional romantic outcomes. For WS, his Forest may be pastoral, but it is always a place of danger, violence and potential tragedy. However, since it’s a comedy, all remains righteous.

Occasionally, the comedy is boisterous: The court jester, Touchstone (the very funny Adam J. Smith), takes an interrogation into the twentieth century using a zucchini as a microphone (fascinatingly, it works!); and the sexy sheep-herder peasants, Silvius and Audrey (Adam Meyer and Elyse Mirto), conduct their courtship in such a way that they should get a room, methinks.

The acting is solid all around. There’s nobody on that stage who doesn’t fully belong. Julia Davis plays the cross-dressing feminist, Rosalind; Abigail Marks is her constant cousin, Celia, who’s no dummy; and Daisuke Tsuji is the love-sick Orlando; all are ably supported by Tony Amendola’s dolorous Jacques (pronounced Jay-Quees in the Francophobic distortion of names). John De Mita is a well-honed mean-spirited Duke Fredrick, who hates his brother Orlando.

Clare’s direction doesn’t waste any of our time, although the songs (original lyrics, but with some of the tunes sounding contemporary) seemed to go on too long, however well-sung. François-Pierre Couture’s attractive set design opened up the stage, allowing for ease-of-movement—although the show still needs faster entrances and exits, especially since it has a 150-minute plus intermission running time. Oddly, Couture’s Moorish arches is at odds with his arbor-themed plots. Go figure. And since it’s set in a strange version of France, in a made-up time, A. Jeffrey Schoenberg’s well-designed costumes reflect a wide period of history, from seventeenth-century Europe to 1960s’ America, with his color schemes complementing the actors.

Still, it’s all about the language here. And with classically-trained actors who know their moves, that makes for rollicking fun worthy of our attention. The axiom that Good Shakespeare is Good Theatre can easily be applied, and for the most part Antaeus delivers nobly.

photos by Daniel G. Lam

As You Like It
Antaeus Theatre Company
Gindler Performing Arts Center
110 East Broadway in Glendale
Thurs and Fri at 8; Sat at 2 & 8; Sun at 2
ends on September 10, 2017
for tickets, call 818.506.1983 or visit Antaeus

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