Theater review: “As You Like It”

Edison Theatre
8:00 p.m. (April 27-28)
2:00 p.m. (April 29)
$10 (students)

For those of you who are not familiar with the storyline of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” Wash. U.’s Performing Arts Department’s most recent production, Rosalind (played by Selena Lane) is a fair and charming French noblewoman who lives with her uncle, Duke Ferdinand, after he banishes her father, Duke Senior (both played by Eric Gustafson). Rosalind is granted a place in court thanks to her close bond with her cousin, Celia (Sasha Diamond). That is, of course, until her uncle sees her as a threat to his own daughter’s popularity. Banished, Rosalind flees to the Forest of Arden, disguised as a man and taking Celia and the court fool, Touchstone (Artem Kreimer), with her.

Meanwhile, Orlando (Mike Kastelein) is also running from the threat of death. After his brother’s failed attempt to kill him via wrestling match at the court, Rosalind gives him her chain. They fall in love but are separated forever. That is, until Orlando finds himself roaming the Forest of Arden as well.

At this point, there have been enough adaptations of all of Shakespeare’s plays that it’s hard to come up with something original (think Leonardo DiCaprio in “Romeo + Juliet”), but director Annamaria Pileggi and dramaturg Gabriela Schneider manage to bring something fresh and delightful to a play that could easily be interpreted in an antiquated and boring way. Modern touches come through in the props especially, including whistles, signs saying “Occupy” and “99%,” and rolling suitcases. Diana Chu’s costumes and Daniel Sarfati’s score help to integrate the past and present.

The first thing you notice is the mirrors. Designed by Otis Sweezey, they reflects the sparse Globe Theatre and serve as columns during scenes in the court and trees in the forest. The versatility of the set reflects the dual roles that several actors play and emphasizes the famous line “All the world’s a stage / And all the men and women merely players”: With the mirrors, the audience becomes a part of the stage.

“As You Like It” starts out a little slow, with its added prologue feeling unnecessary. Fortunately, it’s short. Still, as with many Shakespearean plays, it takes a little while to warm up to the action. It is not until Lane and Diamond first take the stage that the play really comes to life. One cannot help but smile and “be merry” along with them. Kastelein evokes both empathy and laughter throughout, and his performance especially shines. Kreimer, unsurprisingly, provides the majority of comic relief. From then on, the ball gets rolling and the play becomes thoroughly enjoyable, right up through the epilogue.

The final performances are this weekend, at 8 p.m. on April 27 and 28 and at 2 p.m. on April 29 in Edison Theatre. Tickets are $10 for children, students, and seniors; $20 for Washington University faculty and staff; and $30 for other community members. Tickets are available through the Edison Theatre box office (314-935-6543) and through all MetroTix outlets.

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