Fun and frisky, fresh and wise, this is a grand production! While Shakespeare & Company has definitely expanded their repertoire well beyond the Bard, this is the heart of what they do – wonderful Shakespeare done wonderfully well. All of the roles in As You Like It are fascinating and entertaining, if not downright funny, which director Tony Simotes proves here with an amazing ensemble cast who virtually steal the show from the young and love-sick Rosalind and Orlando.
(The other day, in a distracted moment at work, I was asked to recount the plot of As You Like It and I replied: “You know, it’s the one where Rosalind is banished and dresses up as a boy, and Whats-his-name nails all the poems to the trees, and Jacques* says ‘All the world’s a stage…’” This seemed to satisfy my questioner, who noted, correctly, that it was not “Twelfth Night.” “Twelfth Night” is the one with the twins and the shipwreck. I hope this suffices to remind you, too, of which Shakespearean comedy is under discussion here.)
This is the fourth production of As You Like It that I have reviewed, and the second directed by Simotes. That 1999 production, set in 1910 New York City and was my favorite until I saw this latest rendition, set just a decade later in Paris. Simotes obviously “gets” this play. In 1999 his Summer Performance Institute production, presented in modest performance space in The Stables at The Mount, was up against a Big Bucks rendition on the MainStage of the Williamstown Theatre Festival starring Gwyneth Paltrow as Rosalind – and his was waaaaay better. (Paltrow was very good but the production as a whole was a disaster.)