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As You Like It

Almost two weeks ago we went to the BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) Bridge Project production of "As You Like It". We got terrific seats at a steep price. However, last year's production of "Macbeth" was stellar so we were willing to pay the price.

This performance was a significant disappointment! The production was stiff, award, and dull. The set (Tom Piper) and costuming (Catherine Zuber) were unattractive and spare. This did nothing to enhance the comedic elements of the story and undermined what was already a sub-par performance. Not having a great understanding of theater production, I don't know the degree to which a director affects a live performance...but this director (Sam Mendes) either asked nothing of his players or pushed the worst characterizations I have seen in Shakespeare onto them.

The fellow playing Orlando (Christian Camargo) was so...bad. He didn't stumble or loose his lines, he just wasn't the character in any aspect. His lines were rote and flatly delivered. Where there should have been emotion and passion, there was only the addition of an adamant tone. His stage presence was by turns awkward and surly. At one point during the second act he looked up and out with his eyes at the audience; I realized then that the absence of doing so routinely was part of what was wrong with his performance. Later, reading the playbill, I was surprised at his credits and how many previous Shakespeare plays he'd been in. The woman playing Rosalind (Juliet Rylance) put her heart into it, but the whole character was forced and overly perky.

The difference between the characterization of the two dukes was nonexistent and made even less so by the fact that both dukes were played by the same actor and the only costume change was the addition of a hat and overcoat.

Touchstone (Thomas Sadoski) was so uneven. Had he kept up the lewd and sardonic personality he could have been the best character in the show. Alas, he did not.

The character of Charles (Ron Cephas Jones), who had lines in only a few scenes was the best performer in the whole production. This lines poetry *and* speech. His blocking effective and as near natural as the exaggerated gestures can be and still be effective. Too bad is part was so small.

The best part of the performance? The musicians. Yes, the guys who play music during a few parts...and in this performance were the "foresters" (i.e., soldiers and friends of the exiled Duke) who actually had a musical number (a la a Musical) in the first act. They even had humor, with one fellow singing like Bob Dylan.

Now, the question for us is... "The Tempest" just opened at BAM. It is the same director and same set of players (and same cost per seat) as "As you Like It". Do we chance that the performance will be better? I think not.