“As You Like It” is one of my favorite comedies by Shakespeare. The new production at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, directed by Rosa Joshi, offers much to enjoy, but also to annoy.
Instead of a breezy prologue, we get a drawn-out parade of grim characters in dark costumes glumly reporting events. Luckily, that’s followed by a spectacular wrestling match, and the action is set into motion.
The show belongs to Rosalind, brightly played by Jessica Ho. It’s love at first sight for her and Orlando, the young victorious wrestler, but due to political reasons, Rosalind and her cousin Celia must flee the court and take to the woods.
Rosalind disguises herself as a boy called Ganymede, and when Orlando turns up and nails his sappy love poetry to every tree, he doesn’t recognize this “pretty youth” as his love. Ganymede promises to cure him of his mindless, debilitating love, telling him to pretend he, meaning Ganymede, is Rosalind.
The Forest of Arden is an enchanted place, where living is easy and romance abounds. So many couples! Touchstone the clown wants to marry a country lad. A shepherd loves Phoebe, who falls for Ganymede. Celia finds her love at the last minute.
In this free-range forest, gender is fluid. Rosalind’s father is now her mother, but still called Duke Senior. The depressive Jaques is likewise a woman.
To quote another play, “all’s well that ends well,” and family feuds heal themselves in a jiffy. The ending is joyful, but wait, where’s the Ages of Man speech? Oh, it’s now at the very end, just in time to stop the jubilance in its tracks. I wish the speech were back where it belongs. Who wants to worry about death during the nuptials?
This is Dorothy Velasco with KLCC’s Ashland Theater Review.