As You Like It
nytheatre.com review by Mark DeFrancis
July 20, 2008
Performing As You Like It outdoors on a sunny day is certainly not a new idea, but it is a good one. Shakespeare's escapist drama sweeps us away from a courtly, civilized life of petty competition and jealousy into a rural eden where anything, especially love, is possibly. In the same way, Boomerang Theatre Company's production carves out its own Forest of Arden in a quiet niche of Central Park. Throughout the day, the audience can still hear the errant car horn, trumpet, and airplane, but these sounds only serve to remind us of all the things we have put aside for two hours in order to enjoy a play.
The production itself is as scaled-down as can be. Director Matt Johnston has made an effort to trim away any trappings that could distract from the central themes of love, nature and brotherhood. [Here's a plot summary of the play, if you need one.] This minimalist approach focuses the performance on the beauty of the text, which is refreshing in the light of so much modern Shakespeare. The players thus have a true challenge ahead of them, which they take on with rare joy and excitement. They bring the feel of an old traveling player troupe that is having as much fun performing as their audience is watching.
Among the cast there are several notable performances which stand out. I have seen and done this play many times and have never seen Jaques portrayed in the fashion which Matthew Trumbull renders this iconic character. Half nutty professor, half Lewis Black, his Jaques is a furiously cynical intellectual filled with quirks and passion so in contrast with the wise sage we so often see. John Greenleaf takes on the roles of both Dukes (a nice choice) and fills the space with the kind of outdoor stage voice that few actors have. Scott Lee Williams also deserves mention as he floats about the play in several roles, strumming his guitar and providing much needed atmosphere.
But the best reason to see this play is Jessi Gotta's performance as Rosalind. Along with Alisha Spielmann's ditzy Celia, Gotta provides the most entertaining moments of the event. She has a perfect grasp of how to turn 400-year-old verse into common speech and never lets you miss a line. She couples this with an exuberance which fills the space and lends to Rosalind the brilliance and optimism which make her such a lovable character. She is a performer to watch out for.
I'm not going to lie, it's hot outside. Bring a blanket and some water, but just go. I left in great mood if for no other reason than that As You LIke It let me run away from New York City, if only for a short time.