There are 11 reasons why "As You Like It" is the runaway hit of the season at the American Shakespeare Center. Those reasons are: Chad Bradford, Jake Mahler, Dennis Henry, Aidan O'Reilly, Denice Burbach, Daniel Jimenez, Brandi Rhome, Rick Blunt, Kelly McKinnon, Jonathan Holtzman and Natasha Solomon.
You don't often see a play in which every single member of the cast is a star, regardless of size or importance of role. This is one of them. Each of these actors romps through Shakespeare's frothiest play with a full-on head of steam, pumping into it more style, flavor and vigor than even the Bard might have expected.
As is the case with most of Shakespeare's plays, "As You Like It" is somewhat rich in plot. But don't worry about that. The performances are so bright and inventive that it doesn't matter if you grasp to the nth degree every nuance of the action.
In brief, though, the play revolves around Duke Frederick, who banishes his brother — the rightful ruler of their duchy — and his daughter, Rosalind, to the forest of Arden. In the forest, Rosalind (who is traveling in disguise as a man) meets Orlando, a young man she fell in love with earlier in the afternoon.
Rosalind makes use of her disguise to woo Orlando, creating a situation in which a woman disguised as a man pretends to be a woman. The results are highly amusing.
As for the leads, Denice Burbach inhabits the persona of strong-willed Rosalind, one of Shakespeare's great roles for women. She plays it with her characteristic charm and appeal and is thoroughly fetching both in and out of disguise. Chad Bradford does yeoman's work as Orlando, fighting and wooing and cavorting through the play with consummate skill and comedic flair.
Jake Mahler assumes five roles and, as you might expect of someone capable of playing five parts in one play, pretty much runs riot throughout. He is excruciatingly funny and milks all situations for the laughs he can get out of them.
Aidan O'Reilly is particularly appealing as Jacques, "a melancholy lord," and approaches brilliance when delivering the legendary "all the world's a stage" monologue. Dennis Henry is appropriately mean as the usurping Duke Frederick, but bunches the audience up with laughter as the thin-voiced, Alpine-clad Silvius in pursuit of Phoebe, who is delightfully played by Kelly McKinnon.
Rick Blunt as the jester, Touchstone, very nearly walks off with every scene he's in. And Jonathan Holtzman as the wrestler Charles (wait till you hear Shakespeare's lines delivered with a New York tough guy accent), Brandi Rhome as Rosalind's friend Celia, Daniel Jimenez as Oliver and lovely Natasha Solomon as Audrey all help make "As You Like It" the must-see play of the season.
For best seats order As You Like It tickets now.
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The White Devil (PWYW)
Friday, January 30, 2015, 7:30 pm
The Taming of the Shrew
Saturday, January 31, 2015, 2:00 pm
Saturday, January 31, 2015, 7:30 pm
Actors' Renaissance Season