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This article by Jack Florek was prepared for the July 17, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Review: `As You Like It’
All the pictures fairest lined,
Are but black to Rosalind.
Let no fair be kept in mind,
but the fair of Rosalind.
By most people’s standards, Katherine Hepburn’s
Rosalind, in "As You Like It" on Broadway in the early 1950s,
is the quintessential portrayal of Shakespeare’s most charming
But for sheer easy-going joy, it is difficult to imagine Kate, or
anyone else, outdoing the job Missy Thomas is currently doing under
the stars at Pettoranello Amphitheater in Princeton.
Princeton Rep will be performing "As You Like It," Thursdays
to Sundays, through July 28 at 7 p.m. Tickets are free, but there
is a suggested $10 donation.
Set in the what appears to be Hollywood’s idea of the Old West, circa
1890s, Rosalind is brassy, yet sensitive; coy, yet boldly assertive
— just the way Shakespeare wrote her. She is a perfect example
of everything a modern woman is supposed to be. Not bad for a play
written over 400 years ago.
Unseated by his younger brother, Duke Frederick (Gene Kelly), Duke
Senior (Bob Armstrong) retreats into exile in the Forest of Arden.
Rosalind remains as a companion to Frederick’s daughter, Celia. An
embittered rancher, Oliver (Michael Warner), arranges a wrestling
match to the death for his brother Orlando (Christian Conn). But to
his surprise, Orlando wins the match, and Rosalind, impressed with
the younger brother’s physical prowess and rippling muscles, becomes
But when Duke Frederick learns that Orlando is the son of a friend
of the banished Duke, instead of rewarding him, he snubs him. Rosalind
then gives Orlando the golden heart on a chain from around her neck.
The Duke promptly banishes Rosalind, whom he has only tolerated as
a companion to his daughter Celia (Nell Gwynn). Together the women
head off to the forest to find Duke Senior, with Rosalind, for their
safety, dressed as a man. For companionship, they bring along
(Eric Alperin), her uncle’s clown.
Rosalind discovers Orlando in the forest, equally
with her and occupied with attaching poorly written love poems to
trees. Posing as a young man named Ganymede, Rosalind tests Orlando
inviting him to practice making his declarations of love. A young
shepherd named Silvius (Drew Seltzer), desperately tries to win the
love of Phebe, (Judi Lewis), a high-strung shepherdess. But Phebe
falls in love with Rosalind, believing she is a man. Oliver falls
in love with Celia, and even Touchstone falls for the lusty Audrey
(Kim Foster). As a kind of antidote to this lovefest, Jacques (Richard
Bourg), a solitary lord, emits a steady stream of acerbic commentary
on life and amorousness, only to be mocked by Rosalind. Of course,
all works out in the end, in the finest tradition of light romantic
comedy — predictable yet satisfying.
Princeton Rep’s production is grandly conceived and precisely
The Old West setting and costumes work as a palatable sugar coating
for the audience to digest — period costumes can be a bit
to those not brought up on TV’s "Masterpiece Theater."
Shakespeare’s text is untouched. The actors, apart from a few "yee
haws" and a couple of cowboy songs strummed on a badly out-of-tune
guitar, pretty much ignore the cowboy insertions anyway. This, of
course, maintains the integrity of the play while injecting a bit
of lighthearted fun.
James Alexander Bond’s direction is a mix of reverence for the text
as a masterpiece, and good old-fashioned fun. He pays special
to enliven some the saucier aspects of the play, whether it be a
hand across the breasts, a couple pledging their love while rolling
in the hay, or a young man’s overenthusiastic encounter with a cactus.
This may sound like blasphemy, but with all the love and sexual
splashed about the stage, and the quick entrances and exits, it is
tempting to characterize "As You Like it" as a
episode of the old John Ritter sitcom, "Three’s Company."
Thomas, who also played Rosalind last summer in Princeton Rep’s
of "As You Like It" in Palmer Square, asserts herself
as an actor, bagging all the old actor’s tricks and instead bringing
her character to life with sheer talent and dogged technique. She
injects each phrase with subtle meaning and each wink, nod, and wiggle
of the hips belongs to her character. But she also never loses sight
of the comedy of the play, knowing when to ham things up, just a bit,
in order to make things funnier.
Richard Bourg, as Jacques, also turns in an excellent performance,
delivering famous lines, like "All the world’s a stage, and all
the men and women merely players" with an affecting, off-the-cuff
melancholy. Nell Gwynn is properly buoyant and graceful as Rosalind’s
cousin Celia, always present but never stealing the spotlight.
Christian Conn as Orlando plays his character with a well-preserved
hunkness that allows the audience to see what Rosalind sees in him,
without distracting with too much testosterone. Eric Alperin is truly
funny as the frantic clown, Touchstone, who wins the girl despite
his high octane personality. Kim Foster, as Audrey, is appropriately
carnal. Judi Lewis is also a comic jewel as Phebe.
It is nice to see that Princeton Rep won its 20-month battle to return
to Pettoranello Gardens. The production is terrific. There is
beautiful about experiencing Shakespeare under the stars with the
geese honking in the distance and planes flashing overhead. It will
be fun to think back on these fun summer evenings in the cold dark
days of next December.
— Jack Florek
Pettoranello Garden, Community Park North, Route 206 and Mountain
Avenue, 609-921-3682. Free tickets at Thomas Sweet, Palmer Square,
and at theater on night of show. Every Thursday through Sunday
at 7 p.m., to July 28.
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