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Monday, November 3, 2014

Michael Attenborough's As You Like It

I had the pleasure of seeing As You Like It on Saturday at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C. 

It's a wonderful production, and you shouldn't miss it! It runs through 7 December.

Here is information about the play and how to get tickets:

I am not a professional theatre critic, but I would like to share some of my thoughts with you.

It's a delightful show, it's filled with great performances, and the crowd I was with enjoyed it immensely -- they were laughing all the way through, especially the second act.

It's also a unique piece of history. It is the first time that director Michael Attenborough has put on a play for the Shakespeare Theatre Company. When he was invited by Michael Kahn, the Artistic Director of the STC, it seems that Mr. Attenborough's first choice of play was As You Like It

Michael Attenborough during the rehearsal

I was surprised that he chose not to perform it in the STC's larger stage, the Sidney Harman Hall, but rather in the smaller venue, the Landsburgh Theatre. But it seems that he specifically requested the Landsburgh, because he considers As You Like It one of Shakespeare's most "intimate" plays and he wanted the audience to be closer to the action on the stage.

He was absolutely correct, and the smaller stage made the play more immediate, and the performances were much more accessible. 

Also, there is little by way of set decoration, and the music, while very good, is rather simple as well. I actually prefer that, since too often these things can interfere with the performances and the language. 

Zoë Waites and Andrew Veenstra
in rehearsal

In my humble opinion, the play succeeds or fails with the performance of Rosalind. I'm happy to report that Zoë Waites is a wonderful Rosalind, and she effortlessly centers the whole play. 

She plays Rosalind with a great joyful energy, she has a real passion for the role, and she has a real gift for verbal and physical comedy.

Andrew Veenstra is a great Orlando. He has heroic good looks, and a natural charm. The chemistry between his Orlando and Ms. Waites's Rosalind is sweet and seemingly real.

Derek Smith, in the center
in rehearsal

Two of Shakespeare's greatest comic characters, Jaques and Touchstone, are in the very capable hands of Derek Smith and Andrew Weems, respectively.

Mr. Smith as Jaques gets some of the most famous lines in all of Shakespeare, "All the world's a stage" and he captures the spirit of the language very nicely. His delivery is not showy, or over-emphasized, but rather he speaks these lines with a sober and wordly wisdom that befits the character.

I always love the transformation of Touchstone from court jester to Audrey's lusty lover, and Mr. Weems obviously relishes in this broader type of comedy. I would have preferred him to be a touch more bawdy, but he certainly knows how to get an audience to laugh.

The rest of the cast is great, and they each have their moments to shine. It's a splendid ensemble work and Mr. Attenborough has obviously chosen them with great care.

I do want to mention the music. I loved how Hymen's lines were sung, and Te'la Curtis Lee was great as this goddess of marriage. The musical composition of her singing was excellent, the best I have ever heard.

However, the rest of the musical score was rather confusing. It was very somber and moody. I would have preferred something lighter, more festive and playful.

If you are anywhere near Washington, D.C. I highly recommend this production. You won't be disappointed.



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