Aired on KSDS-FM on 7/5/19
RUN DATES: 6/16/19 – 7/21/19
VENUE: The Old Globe
The giant, gilt-edged Fragonard painting sets the stage. But the colossal trees tell the story of “As You Like It” at The Old Globe.
The striking production, helmed by accomplished director but first-time Shakespearean Jessica Stone, is set in 18th century France, the time of Fragonard, the Age of Enlightenment and the waning influence of the court.
Those monumental tree-trunks, accented at first by patches of snow, evince the iciness of the people as well as the climate. One powerful man exiles his brother and daughter, another plots fratricide. But in the second half of this fleet-footed production, flowers have sprouted beneath the trees, as love blooms and brothers are reconciled.
The play is a study in contrasts, a pastoral comedy in which the passions of love are counteracted by the grim life of exile and the melancholy of the poetic Jacques. Idyllic nature counterbalances the artifice of the court.
And yet, much of what we see is not what it seems. The painting is a scrim that reveals dastardly scheming. Strong-willed Rosalind, exiled from the court, escapes by dressing as a man; her beloved cousin, Celia, poses as a country lass.
As the young man Ganymede, Rosalind manages to woo her love, the besotted Orlando. Three other couples will come together at the end, but Jacques will have none of it: the light offset by the dark once again.
The unique epilogue takes on a particular relevance and power, since it’s delivered by a woman, who in this case, was directed by a woman, giving the speech something of a feminist vibe. In Shakespeare’s time, that leading lady was actually a man playing a woman playing a man, evoking modern-day issues of gender politics and fluidity.
Meredith Garretson is wonderfully compelling as Rosalind, who pairs delightfully with Jon Orsini’s affable Orlando. The lovely original music is gorgeously sung by Summer Broyhill, one of a dozen Old Globe/USD Graduate Theater students in the show. The costumes are sumptuous and the lighting and sound enhance the romantic mood.
Though deception and rejection surge, you’ll be swept away by the ardor in the Forest of Arden.
©2019 PAT LAUNER