Sunday, July 27, 2008

Review : As You Like It, Boston Common 2008

I tell myself every year, don't go with people. :)  The show's been rained out for a week so the crowd is huge.  I convince our dinner dates to skip dessert so we have any chance at all of getting a seat.   Our seats are in the back, and they stink.  We can see people walking around on stage, but anything that involves sitting on the stage, or worse, down in front of the stage, we'll have just audio.

The opening few scenes worried me a bit.  I was thinking that they'd catch the audiences attention, what with the fight between Oliver and Orlando happening so quickly.  But, first disappointment.  Orlando throws him instantly into a quick hammerlock sort of hold, and that's that.  No fight.  Later, the fight with Charles goes longer, but not any better.  I was hoping for something more in the judo/grappling style, but what I got was bad professional wrestling.  Seriously.  Punching, kicking, all that sort of thing.  Perhaps they thought they were making it look like the popular "mixed martial arts" style.  These folks could have learned something from the WWE, such as "When you are going to pretend to drive your knee up into the head of your opponent, but you're going to come short by about a foot?  Yeah, don't be turned *toward* the audience so they all see that."  That's why I thought maybe more of a grappling style, because it seems to be safer to teach someone to fall realistically than to actually hit each other realistically.

Rosalind and Celia were handled much better.  For my taste they did the "giggling school girl" thing a bit too much (complete with that cliched "grab each other by both hands/forearms and then screaming while jumping up and down in a circle"), but if that's what works for the audience, it won't kill me. 

The forest scenes were interesting.  Maybe somebody who saw the show can tell me....why the plane?  The forest scene involves a downed airplane, and I think from the distance we were at that Duke Senior was dressed as an aviator.  So I'm guessing the interpretation was "the exiled Duke was flying from his kingdom when he crashed in the forest"?  I don't recall any specific references to it, expressed or implied. Pretty big prop to never mention.

I don't think the crowd really got Touchstone (who was dressed in a bright yellow suit that made me alternately think "vaudeville" and "carnival barker").  His humor, that whole sort of "I'm bored so I will play a wordgame with you", never really seemed to get much of a laugh.

Jaques on the other hand got a reaction every time.  Someone had told me that the actor playing this role was Bottom last year, and once I knew that it was hard to hear anything else.  Maybe he's got all the funniest lines, or maybe he just delivers them better.  [Can I just admit, I would never have thought about pronouncing the name Jay-Kwees?  I just always assumed it was like the French "Jack".  This is my first time seeing AYLI performed.]

One telling moment came when he began, "All the world's a stage..."  and I swear, the crowd noise ceased and heads turned.  It was like people otherwise bored with the show suddenly perked up and went "Ohhhhhh!  THIS is where that comes from!"  I thought it was funny as all heck.

Anyway, the rest of the show goes pretty much as you might expect.  Rosalind's got all the good stuff, especially in her interaction with Orlando.  Her pretending to be a man (and often forgetting) has probably all been done before, but that doesn't make it not funny.   I think the audience for the most part could have done without the whole Phebe/Silvius subplot, which really seems like it's there just to flesh out the second half.

I can't say I loved it.  It was nice, and funny in the expected places, but what else can I really say?  Sometimes the acting seemed pretty wooden, other times it seemed like they went for the easy interpretation (like all the giggling schoolgirl stuff).  Our friends left at intermission.  Not being big Shakespeare fans to begin with, the lousy seats just put it over the top.  My wife stuck it out with me (what's she gonna do, I've got the keys? :)) although toward the end she was asking me to point to paragraphs in the synopsis to see how far along we were.

Of the comedies I've seen on the Common (Dream, Shrew, Much Ado, AYLI), this one ends up fourth of the four.  Somebody's gotta be, I suppose.


Ann said...

I am way behind in comenting to your posts, although I *think* a lot of remarks.

It is miserable to see a poorly done production of a play you care for, especially after rain outs. If you and your wife are ever down in Atlanta, let me know, and I will see about comps to the Shakespeare Tavern for you both. There's another Shakespeare theatre in town, Georgia Shakespeare; their season is spring to fall, and the Tavern is year round.

Gedaly said...

The more you love a piece, the harder it is to be impressed. I saw a production of Henry V a few days ago that wasn't great either. I always wonder what it would be like if I was experiencing the play for the first time ever.

amusings_bnl said...

hopefully gedaly didn't see our kids doing it and was disappointed. that would make me sad.


mumbaibelle said...

I was surprised at how flighty they made Rosalind. She always seems more mature in the reading of it.