As You Like It
By William Shakespeare
Reviewed by Robert Viagas
Rosalind, Orlando and the rest of the merry band of lovers and miscreants in As You Like It who take refuge in the forest of Arden encounter “hippies” and homeless people in Carrie Issacman’s zero-frills staging of William Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy for the Shakespeare Sports Theatre Company.
STC is primarily a traveling theatre, and specializes in an aesthetic self-described on the official website as “unrehearsed Shakespeare.” It’s an apt description. The notion of having the cast read their lines from handheld scrolls instead of bound scripts could not disguise the fact that most of them hadn’t memorized their halting speeches or built much of a coherent characterization beyond eye rolling and hand waving. More than once the action paused while actors glanced nervously at each other waiting for someone else to give the next line. The tactic might work better with plays by Brecht or Foreman, but didn’t really do Shakespeare or the audience any favors.
Among those who acquitted themselves honorably were Charles Lear as the imperious Duke, Joe Crow Ryan as a grizzled Touchstone, and Roger Stude as a disheveled Jacques who stood out with his slapdash but strangely effective “Seven Ages of Man” speech. Director Issacson herself provided a highlight as the coquettish Audrey. Donna Stearns and Melanie Gretchen (who also played Hymen) composed music for Shakespeare’s lyrics.
Some of the actors were in costumes or partial costumes. Most were in street clothes, supposedly circa 1968, when this production is listed in the program as being set. The stage was almost bare, backed by black curtains which the actors sometimes fumbled through, searching for the gap to make their exit.
As You Like It appeared at the tiny Steve and Marie Sgouros Theatre space at the Players Theatre in Greenwich Village through December 8.