Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 16, 2018

REVIEW: Shakespeare & Company, As You Like It

Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, MA
through September 2, 2018
by Rebecca Phelps

Shakespeare and Company has worked its magic yet again with a new production of As You Like It, a show sometimes criticized for being overly “talky” and formulaic but that in the hands of S&Co.’s artistic director and director of this production Allyn Burrows, is anything but. Setting this frolicsome, light-hearted and fanciful comedy in the outdoor Roman Theatre venue provides just the right atmosphere – especially as the sun begins to set as Act II unfolds during the 5PM show.

Photo by Nile Scott Studio
S&Co. actors are brimming with their trademark physicality, flexibility and bawdy humor along with their wonderfully clear and audible vocal delivery. The action takes place mainly in the forest of Arden where the brilliant Rosiland and her cousin Celia have landed after being kicked out of their comfortable homes by Celia’s ambitious and conniving father, Duke Frederick senior, her uncle. Simultaneously, Orlando has been banished from his home due to his older brother Oliver’s murderous intent to keep him from his rightful inheritance.

Touchstone, Jaques, LaBelle, Silvius, Phoebe and Aubrey, are relatively minor characters, but nevertheless, carry much of the weight of the entertainment value of the show. MacConnia Chesser as Touchstone delivers a brilliant and hilarious re-interpretation of the role as a woman, playing opposite Thomas Brazzle, who doubles as both Oliver and a male version of Shakespeare’s character Audrey, here re-invented as “Aubrey,” who only has eyes for Touchstone. Ella Loudon is similarly tasked with the double casting as both the love-struck Phoebe, who falls for Rosiland in her male disguise, and the reinvented role of a very French LaBell. Gregory Boover serenades with  guitar playing and singing as poor Silvius, who cannot be deterred from his undying love for Phoebe. Deaon Griffin-Pressely delivers a charmingly sincere and enthusiastic Orlando, the perfect foil for the brilliant Rosiland. Nigel Gore as both Duke Frederick and Duke Senior, Zoe Laiz as Celia and Adam, and Mark Zeisler as Charles and Jaques round out this accomplished and skillful cast, but Aimee Doherty’s Rosiland alone is worth the price of the ticket. A demanding role, she plays with superb subtlety and razor-sharp wit.

Allyn Burrows is truly a gifted director and clearly in his element as he manages to create this romp in Shakespeare’s forest of Arden. He selected to set the play in the Roaring 20’s– what better time to pick than one in which women got the vote and were given more choice in whom they would marry? The use of music is noteworthy and adds to the production. Burrows and his cast have created a marvelously entertaining production.