After previously working on As You Like It by William Shakespeare at my alma mater, it was a pleasure to return to this wonderful script almost a year later with the Classical Actors Ensemble. This is certainly one of my favorites Shakespeare's and it's always enjoyable to see how a theater takes a script that is more than a few centuries old and still makes it interesting. This was the first time I'd seen a production with the Classical Actors Ensemble and the first time I attended anything at the Crane Theater space.
As You Like It is a romantic comedy that includes many typical Shakespeare themes including the play ending with a few couples getting married. The play is one of Shakespeare's most beloved and features the romantic and resourceful Rosalind who is banished from her uncle's court and must flee to a nearby forest. Accompanying her is her cousin Celia and their friend Touchstone in this light-hearted comedy of betrayal, disguise, utopia, and romance. A more in-depth summary of the show can be found online, pretty much anywhere if you want more specifics.
This production was set in the 80's with vibrant colors, padded shoulders and even ratted hair (sometimes in a side pony). This accompanied by the vibrant and minimalistic set was enjoyable to watch. Many of the actors were very talented in interpreting the script. Any actor who tackles Shakespeare deserves an award for the sheer amount of work it goes into memorizing and understanding the text. Even with the 80's theme, the cast stayed true to the text and told the story.
On that note, each time a theater company does Shakespeare, there is the question of "How can we make it our own?" This is not relating to the question of "What time period are we going to put it in?" but literally what set's this production apart from another As You Like It production. CAE decided to add music to theirs. Not just any music, but the music of the 80s. It did seem a bit...awkward at times. Some of the actors came out to sing these songs while people were still filing into their seats and with at least 7 minutes before the show was to start. It felt weird because I didn't know if this was a part of the show and if I was supposed to sit down, turn my phone off and get into "audience mode" or if it was supposed to be music to just casually enjoy before the show starts. More songs from the 80's were intertwined through the production as well as actors would finish a scene, walk over to the microphones stage right and sing. I personally wasn't feeling it but I was feeling it when Megan Daoust sang.
Daoust, played Phoebe, was phenomenal. All around just a joy to watch on stage. It's a shame that Phoebe is such a small role in this play because I wanted more! The shepherds and folks who lived in the forest weren't entirely 80's themed but almost Canadian. While I didn't understand the correlation between the 80's court and Canadian forest people, Daoust made it work. She had the accent, the wit and even a hilarious physicalization of the character. She sadly only sung a small bit of one of the songs but I wish she would have sung all of them.
As You Like It runs February 17th-March 5 at the Crane Theater.