As You Like It

by Dale Reynolds

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday August 3, 2017

James Sutorius
James Sutorius  

Antaeus' second play in its new home in Glendale, "As You Like It," is an odd duck of a production. Directed by Shakespearean scholar Rob Clare, his cast is impeccable in the diction, rhythm and scansion of the text. (The Text Coach was Elizabeth Swain, who knows her way around Elizabethan Theatre.) And the wit in the play was fully on display.

Set in an indeterminate France in some never-clear time, A. Jeffrey Schoenberg's well-designed costumes reflect a wide period of history, from 17th Century Europe to 1960s America, with his color schemes never clashing and nothing standing out as merely gratuitous.

As is their norm, Antaeus "partner-casts" each production, so one may go twice to see two completely different casts, although they all rehearse simultaneously, which the actors claim adds sensibility to an exhaustive rehearsal period. This company was labeled "The Peascods" (which is, incidentally, the pod which holds peas, used in the script as a polite way of indicating a man's scrotum. Who knew?!)

In the romantic comedy, two evil lords banish their brothers, one older, the other younger, as they usurp their lands and fortunes. As their aristocratic followers are banished as well, in the fictional Forests of Arden (a name some purists insist proves that William Shakespeare did indeed write the works attributed to him).

This play, written in the late 16th Century, uses the image of a vast rural forest, away from corrupting royal courts, as a special place that allows challenges to gender roles, including cross-dressing, and some character's confused same-sex attractions, which then allows for sexual freedoms that still end in conventional romantic outcomes. For WS, his Forest is always a place of danger, violence and potential tragedy. But since it's a comedy, all remains righteous.

Director Clare handles his actors with an academic's iron rod, making the two casts verbally fluid, and with plenty of energy. He plays the comedy subdued, which is fine, except when he allows the always-extraordinary JD Cullum to shine as a rather fey Touchstone, taking an interrogation into the 20th Century with a zucchini as a microphone (it works!), ably supported by Sally Hughes as the cross-dressing feminist, Rosalind.

Desiree Mee Jung plays her faithful cousin, Celia; Matthew Gallenstein's goofy love-interest, Orlando; James Sutorius' underplayed Jaques (pronounced Jay-Quees in the Francophobic distortion); Paul Culos and Karen Malina White as the sheep-herder peasants, Silvius and Audrey; in addition to the solid acting from all the other roles. No slackers, here.

Clare's direction doesn't waste any of our time, although the songs (original lyrics I would guess; same for the tunes?) seemed to go on too long, albeit strongly-voiced. The set design of François-Pierre Couture opened up the stage, allowing ease-of-movement, although it still needs faster entrances and exits, especially with its 150-minute (plus intermission), running time. And, oddly, its Moorish Arches-look was at odds with its arbor-themed plots.

Still, it's rollicking good fun, worthy of our attention. Never forget, Good Shakespeare is Good Theatre.

"As You Like It" plays through September 10 at the Gindler Performing Arts Center, 110 East Broadway, Glendale 91205. For tickets or information, call 818-506-1983 or visit www.AntaeusTheatre.com.