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ISSUE 118 VOL 17 PUBLISHED 4/22/2005

Psychedelic Shakespeare

By Alyssa Kleven
Contributing Writer

Friday, April 22, 2005

In the midst of a full house at the Guthrie, I became "Shakespearienced." What does this mean, you might ask? Well, it's the theme and setting of the latest Guthrie Theatre production, “As You Like It.

This masterful Shakespearean comedy is usually open to many interpretations; however, director Joe Dowling appeared to make very few decisions on what interpretations to use.

“As You Like It” tells the story of four couples who must overcome obstacles before they can partake in a mass wedding ceremony. Due to political conflict within the court, everyone escapes to the Forest of Arden, where people burst into song at their will or write poems (good or bad) for their loved ones. It is here that heroine Rosalind disguises herself as a man, secretly watching her exiled father and concealing her identity from her beloved Orlando.

Rosalind, played by Bianca Amato, didn’t act like the heroine she is supposed to be. Along with her cousin Celia, played by Ryan Michelle Bathe, the two got their jollies by acting like pre-pubescent girls when discussing men. Instead of being portrayed as a heroine whose character develops into a wise and smart woman, Rosalind was a giggly school-girl.

The worst acting in the play, however, didn’t happen at one specific point but rather came from the director and the actors’ inability to make deliberate decisions about when everyone would discover that Rosalind had, in fact, been disguising herself as a man.

One too many butt-slaps from Orlando (played by Drew Cortese) led to confusion as to whether or not he already knew that Rosalind was in disguise. If he did know, he certainly acted clueless the whole time – and if he didn't know, his expression when she revealed her true identity was blank and unshocked.

Duke Senior (played by Stephan Pelinski), Rosalind's father, also seemed unimpressed when Rosalind “came out.”

Surprisingly, the 1960s theme did work to the play's advantage. Its tagline, "Are You Shakespearienced?" gave the audience a vague idea that the play would be set in the 1960s.

As the play commenced, the time period didn't seem too clear, but as the play progressed, the clothes and the acting became more and more stereotypical of the 60s.

The play demonstrated the passage of time in a unique perspective. Steel-frame trees abloom with psychedelic branches denoted the spring-like atmosphere of the play’s finale.

The play ended with an early 1970s disco movement, as a faux Diana Ross came out on stage to serenade the four couples after their marriage ceremony. However, this caused the cast to break into a dance that looked almost as painful for them to perform as it was for the audience to watch.

In spite of its lighthearted title, the Guthrie’s “As You Like It” ultimately turned out to be a rather unlikeable production.

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