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Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Play's the Thing

Last week I saw another Sam Mendes/Bridge Project Shakespeare production at BAM, "As You Like It." The cast was less famous, the play less mind-blowingly awesome than "Winter's Tale" but I still really enjoyed it. Some people look down their noses at this play under the belief this is a truly lesser work by the Bard. That's because of the way so many crowd-pleasing elements are just tossed in and the plots all wrap up so conveniently and so offstage. Singing! Wrestling! Girls dressed as boys! Sudden religious conversions that solve all our problems! etc. etc. And even so, it's not as hilarious when performed as other comedies like "Twelfth Night" or "Much Ado."

But to these critics I say, lighten up. What I find really fun about "As You Like It" is that it contains all those wacky elements and yet also simultaneously shows us real glimpses of the themes Shakespeare would later be obsessed with--usurping family members, exile, forgiveness, and so on. Plus I love the female friendship between Rosalind and Celia, and the double combo of Jaques and Touchstone provides a lot of onstage folly for our amusement.

Mendes' production relies on great music, wonderful arrangements of "Under the Greenwood Tree" and "A Lover and his Lass" and his trademark dramatic lighting, and a more-than-solid cast of Brits and Americans (with the exception of one irritating actor). If you are in New York and want some cheap erudition, I heartily recommend this production for an evening's diversion.

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