The New York Times declares As You Like It a hit!!!
The New York Times THEATER REVIEW by ANITA GATES
Teen Angst Leavened by Goofiness
‘As You Like It,’ at the New Victory Theater
First, let’s change the title to “B.F.F.’s in the Forest of Arden.”
Celia, a mere supporting character in “As You Like It” — now at the New Victory Theater in a sweet and sophisticated new staging for all ages — is so devoted to her cousin Rosalind that when Rosalind is banished from wherever they all live in ducal France, Celia insists on going with her. Into the woods. And this being Shakespeare, they go in disguise: Rosalind (Elizabeth Stahlmann) as a man, and Celia (Megan Bartle) as a shepherdess who looks like Megan Hilty.
This Acting Company production, done in association with the Guthrie Theater and expertly directed by Dan Rothenberg, has just enough silliness to keep younger theatergoers entertained. Set in the early 20th century, it has physical comedy (good job by Ms. Bartle, especially); action (one character bursts in and holds a knife to another’s throat); sports (wrestling); music (wandering minstrel with guitar); goofiness (a fine Christopher Michael McFarland as the court jester); adolescent anxiety (a smitten boy and girl too awkward to converse); and, of course, gender issues (the illusion of same-sex flirtation through cross-dressing). And some actors wear big animal heads (wild about the boar). Shakespearean comedies can get a little PG-13: this show is officially recommended for theatergoers 12 and older. But “As You Like It” remains excellent introductory Shakespeare. There is only one major set of lovers, Rosalind and Orlando (Joseph Midyett), to keep track of. The play does end with a quadruple wedding, but most of the brides and grooms are minor characters. Everybody who was mean in the beginning turns kind.
And the script includes the “All the world’s a stage” speech, delivered nicely by Chris Thorn as an emo Jaques, boisterously acting out the seven ages of man. Yaegel T. Welch is also a standout, although much more so as Charles, the wrestler with attitude, than as the mild-mannered exiled duke.
Matt Saunders’s set is a winner. Very understated in Act I, with glamorous old Victrolas, minimal palace furniture and just a hint of the forest, it explodes in Act II with savage ferns, trees with scary branches and a fierce red sun. Rousseau, anyone?
“As You Like It” continues through Sunday at the New Victory Theater, 209 West 42nd Street, Manhattan; (646) 223-3010, new victory.org.