CSC’s “As You Like It” with Teen Angst
Review by Liz Eichler
While it may not be your mother’s Shakespeare, CSC’s As You Like It concentrates the story into a rich pot of teen angst, letting the humor and love story rise to the surface. Contrasting rules and rebellion, As You Like It mashes together the bard’s classic comedy with a 90’s rock musical. If you remember your Sony Discman and your pleather CD binders, you are the target audience. However, because it is Shakespeare, there is something for everyone.
The Plot of CSC’s As You Like It
The story: a Duke usurps her sister’s throne and banishes her sister from the Royal Court to the Forest of Arden. At first, she allows her daughter Celia’s bff and cousin Rosalind (the daughter of the banished duke) to stay, but they have too much fun as they are overheard giggling about Rosalind’s crush on Orlando (the younger brother of one of the new Duke’s allies) who bested the new Duke’s wrestler. The Duke banishes Rosalind. So what’s a teen to do? Run away! Both young ladies go to the forest, Rosalind disguised as a man, and both assume the grunge dress of commoners, taking the fool Touchstone with them. In the forest they find the deposed court mingling with shepherds and shepherdesses. Everyone enjoys the relaxed morals and mores of the forest. Rosalind, disguised as male Ganymede, meets Orlando again. He is in the forest because his brother is trying to kill him, but he is smitten and covers the trees with love poems to Rosalind. Be assured, all stories are tied up and this comedy ends in multiple marriages and dancing.
Director Brant Russell from UC’s College Conservatory of Music, provides a fresh perspective while hammering home the key parts of the show–the love story and the comedy. He and Jemma Alix Levy adapted the script. But to make it really smell like teen spirit, he adds a lot of 90’s era music, and capitalizes on the contrasting words and expectations. Cary Davenport’s new songs move the action along so you could focus on this love story and the highlights. One of the best is “I’m Gonna Be a Man,” sung by Rosalind and Celia.
CSC’s As You Like It Performers
This is Courtney Lucien’s show. She has so much fun in the role that you have fun. She can be silly with her cousin, awkward and thunderstruck by love, and belt out a great song. K.P. Powell is making his debut as Orlando, her love interest. (I hope we see more of this talented young man.) He has great timing, great vocals, and great charisma. Archer and Lucien have great rapport and she is a good foil and friend.
So nice to see Billy Chace back! His wrestler is a hoot. Other comedic highlights include Erin McCamley (Music Director) in a cameo as a preacher and a running gag with Jennifer Joplin (Jacques) who, finally, sings a very moving “All The World’s A Stage.” Geoffrey Warren Barnes II (Touchstone) and Barry Mulholland (Corin) enjoy some reefer madness as they underline the play’s themes. Don’t overthink it. Life’s too short. Enjoy yourself away from the structure and rules of the Court. Arden is a place for freedom, love and understanding.
Vocally, you must notice Patrick Earl Phillips (Amiens) and Candice Handy (Phoebe). Both are featured in “I Don’t Wanna Freak Out Anymore” and other songs. Cincy Fringe Musical wunderkind Hannah Gregory makes her debut as the Narrator/Hymen. She has the physical energy to lead, but needs a mic boost, especially in the first song, in an otherwise well mic’d and great sound designed show.
The set (Samantha Reno) is imaginative and unusual for CSC, with a live band in the back, and immersive vines throughout. Wonderful lighting (Jessica Drayton) and projections (Robert Carlton Stimmel) help place you in a rustic barn, forest or court.
Shout out to the quick changes (Rainy Edwards, Costumes) for Sara Mackie, who plays both contrasting Dukes. Colleen Dougherty (Audrey), Rachel Perin (LeBeau and Choreographer) and Rupert Spraul (Oliver) round out the cast.
Running off the heels of the hugely successful and more traditional Taming of the Shrew, some purists may be in for a surprise–and balk at first–but win be won over, as WS says “Let no fair be kept in mind, But the fair of Rosalind.” Or, “wooed by the performances, and change their mind, due to the cast and Rosalind.”
Get Your Tickets to CSC’s As You Like It
As You Like It runs through April 29. Get your tickets at Cincyshakes.com.