Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Garden Romp “As You Like It” Opens Lowell Davies Festival Season


Boy loves girl, loves boy, loves girl. We're back at the Festival Stage for the beginning of the opening summer production of William Shakespeare’s garden romp “As You Like It”.

Similar to the Bard’s other fluffier almost benign comedies, “All’s Well The Ends Well” and “Much Ado About Nothing”, “As You Like It” will please those looking for an evening of ‘lite’ Shakespeare under the stars.
Mark H. Dold as Jacques, Cornell Womack as Duke Senior, and cast 
Shakespeare is the master of setting up his defense of sibling rivalry, cross- dressing and disguises and riddles, in order to set the ‘stage’ for all of the above. This one alas is no different. Brothers Orlando (Jon Orsini) and Oliver (Aubrey Deeker Hernandez) are at odds with each other. Oliver wants Orlando out of the way so he alone will have what he thinks is rightfully his. Before that there was the same rivalry between brothers Duke Senior and Duke Frederick.

Oliver arranges a wrestling match, as the evening’s entertainment, with the muscular Ramon Burris as the champ, Charles. The idea is to rid his brother as well as amuse the guests, and the hit is on. Looking at the two, with slight of build Orlando and the burley Charles, it would be hard to imagine Orlando coming out on top.

Suffice to say Orlando wins the match (credit flight director Jacob Grigolia-Rosenbaum for a beautifully choreographed fight) and with that is banished from the court by the sinister Duke Frederick.
Meredith Garretson, Nikki Massoud and Aubrey Deeker Hernandez as Oliver
 Rosalind (beautiful, teasing and charming Meredith Garretson) who defends and cheers Orlando is banished from the very same court that her father, Senior Duke, who received the same treatment by bad seed brother Duke Frederick in an earlier sibling rivalry war of the Dukes, was also banished from his Duchy. As opposites will have it, brother’s Oliver and Orlando and Senior Duke and Duke Frederick, create havoc in the court and discontent in the family.

Rosalind takes the banishment in stride and readies for the long trek to the forest. She might also have ulterior motives to break from the court and become an independent woman but in the process finds Orlando again. Her interest in this attractive young man is more than a passing fancy; she is smitten as in love at first sight.

With the clown Touchstone (Vincent Randanzzo) and coins in tow, Rosalind and her best friend and cousin, daughter of Duke Frederick, Celia (Nikki Massoud) head off in disguise to the forest where love, it seems, is in bloom and “all the world’s a stage” and “all men and women are merely players.”
Meredith Garretsonand Jon Orsini
Here the story plays out in this wonderful Forest of Arden where Orlando is desperately seeking Rosalind who now calls herself Ganymede. She plays cat and mouse with Orlando as she struts about like a man but swoons and faints like a lovesick babe. The dwellers sing, dance and frolic.

Obadiah Evans’ original music (Shakespeare’s lyrics) strummed effectively on her guitar as minstrel Amiens (Summer Broyhill) gives a nice lift and easy air to this production directed with an eye to the lighter side by Jessica Stone who sets the time line in 18th century France where David Israel Reynoso’s period costumes are picture perfect.
Meredith Garretson as Ganymede, Jon Orsini and Nikki Massour
As the refugees from the court show up in numbers schlepping one thing or another all are welcome and accepted, fed, while food is scare, and cared for and friends are easily made and life is a song. It is here that the cynical, melancholy and depressed, Jacques (Mark H. Dold) recites his “all the world’s a stage”, and “seven stages of man” where it is echoed in unison and with delight by the wonderful ensemble of forest dwellers.

In another of the more touching scenes young Orlando carries the near exhausted and worn out Adam (Joseph Kamal), a servant in Orlando’s home, into the colony in his arms like a sick child.
Vincent Randazzo as Touchstone and Yadira Correa as Audrey
Cornell Womack is a calming yet resonant voice in the crowd as Duke Senior, Rosalind’s father who is there in the forest to meet them while the other brother, punitive and treacherous Duke Frederick (played by the same Cornell Womack who creates two different personalities) back at his Estate, is not very happy about the goings on in the garden.   

It’s all very pat, no one doubting the ending of this romantic comedy but getting there, a bit over two hours, brings out some fine acting by the entire cast and some slight of hand scenes with scenic director’s (Tobin Ost’s) giant pastoral picture that takes up a deal of space in the both background and foreground. With lighting by Stephen Strawbridge the pastoral scene becomes a scrim in which we see Frederick in the court with his followers expressing his discontent.  Nice touch! 

Charm and love fill the air with Garretson’s reading of Rosalind, Mossoud’s playful Celia, Dold’s serio/comic, misery laden Jacques, handsome and wanting Orsini’s Orlando, Kamal’s sage Adam, Randazzo’s silly Touchstone, Rosenbaum’s heavy hitting wrestling match and Jessica Stone’s eye for romance and finally, pageantry are all inclusive.   
Meredith Garretson and Nikki Massoud
And as for the women in the audience take heed from Rosalind: like those in the forest who have experienced the enchanted land and learned that the roles played by men and women are interchangeable and when they return to the familiar place they left behind, make it a more caring place. Amen!
Cast of "As You Like It"
See you at the theatre.


Dates: Through July 11th
Organization: The Old Globe
Phone: 619-231-1941
Production Type: Comedy
Where: 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park, San Diego, CA
Ticket Price: Start at $30.00
Web: theoldglobe.org
Venue: Lowell Davies Festival Stage
Photo: Jim Cox

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