Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s first Shakespeare play of the year is a delightful and breezy production of As You Like It, starring Sara Clark as a puckish Rosalind.
Like her father before her, Rosalind is banished to the Forest of Arden. Disguised as the young man Ganymede, she is accompanied by her cousin and best friend Celia, who is herself disguised as the young maid Aliena. The ensuing complications of their mistaken identities comically work themselves out, of course, and both Rosalind and Celia find true love, just in time to reunite with Rosalind’s father and see him restored to his dukedom.
Rosalind is the largest female role Shakespeare wrote, but Clark delivers it with an energy and poise that belies the considerable burden. Her performance is a fine balance of the silly and the solemn, the slapstick and the serious. Clark’s energy is matched by Miranda McGee, whose Celia is a Shakespearean Amy Schumer, a slightly naughty but good-natured provocateur.
Billy Chase veers toward the histrionic as Touchstone, but the fishing scene between the fool and the shepherd Corin, portrayed by Jim Hopkins, is a comedic highlight of the show. Also notable are Justin McCombs’s antics with a petulant lamb, Kyle Brumley’s recounting of the saga of a sobbing deer, and Lindsay Augusta Mercer’s music to the numerous songs, more than in any other Shakespeare play.
Director Jeremy Dubin makes good use of every last inch of space, including the aisles and even the pillars in CSC’s intimate auditorium. Shannon Robert is also inventive in her scenic design for the tight stage, which is evocatively lit by Sara Watson.
Performances continue until December 12, Thursday to Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Single tickets are available at the box office (719 Race Street), by phone (513-381-2273, ext. 1), or online (www.cincyshakes.com) and range from $22 to $39, with discounts for students, seniors, groups, and AAA members.