As You Like It (A New Adaptation) at Strangeloop Theatre | Theater review

A modern-language adaptation of the cross-dressing comedy misses Shakespeare’s finesse.
Photograph: courtesy of Strangeloop Theatre As You Like It at Strangeloop Theatre
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At the preshow announcement of Letitia Guillaud’s new adaptation of As You Like It, the fool Touchstone (Peter Robards) comes out and tests an old theater superstition. “Macbeth,” he says, noting that nothing bad happens when he says the word. But the show has yet to begin.

Local improviser Guillaud’s adaptation starts in Shakespeare’s verse, but once the love-struck characters enter the Forest of Arden, they use modern language. Composed from rehearsal improvisations, the updated dialogue sounds like No Fear Shakespeare with more ums. The actors aren’t completely comfortable with the adapted text; Act II, set entirely in Arden, moves with a sluggish pace that makes it seem as if the ensemble is still improvising. The vocals lack energy; at the end of the classic “All the world’s a stage” speech, Holly Robison’s Jacques trails off and the final words are lost.

Some of the modern flourishes are clever—the Kinks’ transvestite love letter “Lola” is sung in the second act—but when the language switches over, the dramatic interest of the story disappears. Minus Shakespeare’s poetry, Orlando (Tom Kaehny) and Rosalind’s (Emily Harpe) romance has the emotional stakes of an Adam Sandler film. As cross-dressing Rosalind and her cousin Celia, Harpe and Stevie Chaddock Lambert come close to redeeming the production with their relaxed chemistry and control of (what’s left of) Shakespeare’s verse.

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