As You Like It
By Tracy Doyle
As You Like It, one of William Shakespeare’s most popular pastoral comedies, has long sparked debates over its merits. Wisconsin Lutheran College’s production is no exception. The play is set in what is most likely France and opens after Fredericke, the younger brother of the reigning duke, has usurped the dukedom and banished his brother. The action centers on the rightful duke’s daughter, Rosalind, her eventual flight of the dukedom and her convoluted relationship with Orlando, the youngest of three sons of the late Sir Rowland deBoys.
Like many Shakespearian works, there are endless love intrigues and twisted relationships; basically, Rosalind disguises herself as a man and playacts with Orlando, who thinks she is “Ganymede.” Ganymede tries to free Orlando of his love for Rosalind by pretending that he is Rosalind (of course, he/she is) and teaching Orlando about the perils of loving a finicky woman. Everything works out in the end and weddings abound, and generally, it could be quite the amusing romp in the woods.
However, Wisconsin Lutheran College’s production takes away some of the value of this piece. Much of the acting is unbelievable and childish. The dialogue is rushed through like an unwanted chore, and even the plot is obscured by silly, show-stealing business.
Critics of past productions of As You Like It have wondered whether it is a serious work with intrinsic literary value or a mere entertainment. In this production, it is impossible to critique the script itself as much of the dialogue was incomprehensible. Judging the entertainment value of the show is equally challenging. Because extraneous stunts were included in nearly every scene between Rosalind/Ganymede and Orlando, serious viewers are constantly distracted from the story and unable to lose themselves in the fun. Whether this was intended to divert attention from the obvious homosexual overtones of the play or to “pep up” a script the director found too boring on its own is unclear.
But as much as this reviewer disliked the performance, the entire cast and audience seemed to be having the time of their lives. The young faces of the Shakespearian troupe gleamed with constant excitement, and the audience reacted strongly, laughing, oohing, and ahhing at their loved ones on stage. Both the adorable Aaron Taylor Klein (Orlando) and the charming Allyss Elaine Martin (Rosalind) have a very likeable energy with the promise of good performances to come. However, if you’re looking for good Shakespearian theatre, keep looking, because this production is definitely not as you like it.
Wisconsin Lutheran College’s production of As You Like It runs through November 10. For more info, visit http://www.wlc.edu/arts/