As You Like It
As You Like It
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Kathleen Lindsey-Moulds
Starring Domino Thomas, Ashleigh Ann Gardner, Veronica Kelly
Valencia College, Orlando FL
Damn, that one angry Orlando (Thomas) in the first act! This guy is ready to chew nails and spit out a shed, and he does a pretty decent job of wrestling tough guy Charles (Omar Velazquez) without hurting anyone in the audience. He’s been denied his inheritance and his brother Oliver (Jonathan M. Raffoul) tells him to take a powder. Across the valley fair Rosalind (Gardner) is best friends with Celia (Kelly) until Rosalind’s dad turns traitor to Celia’s dad Duke Frederick (John Segers). Now he’s turned both of them out on their own, and Rosalind dresses as a boy and takes to the woods as Ganymede while Celia tags along as he female companion. The pair hooks up with an anarchist hippie commune where Ganymede makes an impression on Orlando, he like everyone else in this oversized comedy can’t see her femininity but falls for her drag anyway.
The first few scenes are rather tenuous, as if the cast was off book but just barely. By the time we land in Arden Forest things are much smoother with Orlando and Rosalind flying high. By far the most accomplish performance comes from Robert Wright as Jaques, the angsty poet of the forest. The other outstanding performance comes from the jester Touchstone (Eric Fagan), he was over the top but under control, his mugging and sideways complaints were the funniest part of this comedy. I was impressed by rustic Phoebe (Yaritza Rivera), she “may not be for all markets” but tonight she sold herself with a smoldering sexuality. When Rosalind’s Ganymede reveal her true self, Phoebe looks a bit disappointed but resigned, her default hubby Silvius (Josh Woodbury) might be a fine man, he just needs a bit of styling mousse. And I congratulate John Segers; he provided the Shakespearean gravitas of the elder psychotic plot motivator. Listening to reason is not in his job description.
Tonight’s set echoes back to early Roman stages, there’s a gallery above and exceptionally small and high steps on the corners. A small fire is folded into the stage, and between the set and the costumes there was a lot of brown going on. Arden forest trees dropped from the ceiling, over all they were a cool device but badly blocked and one landed in front of me stage right; it carefully concealed Rosalind and Celia’s big scene. Musicians wandered thought the show to add a Renaissance atmosphere; their enthusiasm over ran their skill and they were less than inspiring. There’s some solid acting here, but it’s one of the weakest Valencia Shakespeare’s in recent memory.