As She Likes It


Playing semi-contemporaneously with The Alchemist (reviewed below), is Maria Aitken's take on As You Like It.

Her staging attempts to take the play's most famous line, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players," absolutely literally by envisioning the play as a movie in production, the forest of Arden as America, and setting each separate scene of the play in later and later periods of American history, echoing the Westward expansion.

The exiles are envisioned as Puritans coming to New Amsterdam, and the closing wedding scene is a scene from Hollywood's golden age. If you tossed As You Like It into Centennial, the miniseries, this is what you'd get.

This allows the actors to show amazing versatility --inhabiting not only different costumes, but different voices, postures and attitudes-- in each scene. It shows the universality of Shakespeare, in that the story "works," can be envisioned, in any time period and any place. And it allows Francesca Faridany as Rosalind to use a broad Western twang and Cowboy swagger to create one of the more believable girl fooling everyone into thinking she's a boy performances.

However, it also utterly destroys the flow of the story and prevents the various lovers from developing any chemistry: truly an unconscionable thing to do to actors. Just when a scene starts to flow, the on-stage director yells, "cut," and out rolls the new scenery for a new era and out come the actors with an entirely different look and attitude, such that we have to figure out who they are all over again.

The director wanted to make watching Shakespeare like making a movie? Have you ever watched an actual film being made? It's incredibly boring. Everyone mostly stands around while the scene and lighting are adjusted, then the actors play for a minute or two, then there's a "cut," possibly several re-takes, and then more sitting around for set-up.

That is precisely what watching this production is like.