As You Like It
- Written by William Shakespeare
- Directed by Des McAnuff
- Starring Andrea Runge, Brent Carver
- At the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ont.
Play at a glance: This is the Shakespeare comedy where everyone runs off after Rosalind (Andrea Runge) and Celia (Cara Ricketts) from the Duke Frederick's tyrannical court into the forest of Arden. There, each finds love and gets married and/or reconciles with his brother, the exception being the exquisitely melancholy Jaques (Brent Carver).
First impression: In the forest of Arden all things are transformed. Stratford's oft-maligned artistic director Des McAnuff has emerged from his trip there with a new-found reputation as a delightful director of Shakespearean comedy - this surrealist 1920s-themed production is a measured and musical joy where finely tuned acting takes prominence over concept. And, in her second season, Ms. Runge has proved herself a sparkling leading lady, a mooning and mischievous Rosalind with a hint of Julie Andrews in her. At Stratford, finally, the Bard is back.
Highlights: Hard to know where to begin. In a joyous seven-themed production, there are at least seven outstanding performances: Mr. Carver's wise and sad-eyed Jaques; Ben Carlson's acerbic, bass-playing Touchstone; Lucy Peacock as his lobotomized bride; Brian Tree as a lovably loyal Adam; Paul Nolan's good-hearted and guileless Orlando; Tom Rooney doubling as Dukes both good and evil; and Dan Chameroy in a small rustic role, hilarious and heartbreaking as he walks away on his own with a bicycle built for two.
The nitpicks: I'd rather focus on the highlights ... but the Nazi-themed court is a bit overblown and Ms. Rickett's lovely Celia might have disguised herself a tad more in the woods, I suppose.
Audience instant reaction: Charmed, I'm sure.
Critic's instant reaction: Four stars (rating subject to change overnight - for full review, see Wednesday's Globe Review)
Post-show questions for over dinner: How much did you love that?