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Photograph: Alexander BruehlJames Graham and Kate LoConti as Orlando and Rosalind in Two Pence Shakespeare's As You Like It

As You Like It at Two Pence Shakespeare | Theater review

Two Pence’s production layers on too much concept, to the point of obscuring the characters’ emotional arcs.

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The keys to a successful Shakespeare production are in the script; following the directions the playwright has given unlocks the emotional power that has made these stories theater standards for centuries. Walsh’s unfocused conceptual changes prevent Two Pence’s As You Like It from finding the truth behind the gender-bending comedy; frantic blocking and extraneous movement onstage distract from the language, and the unnecessary stage business cuts into the clarity by taking the actors’ attention away from the complex verse structure.

While casting Jaques as a woman is a clever way to explore the character’s famous “All the world’s a stage” speech, Lucy Carapetyan is miscast in the role, struggling to capture the character’s melancholy or biting sense of humor. Walsh’s most bizarre choice is using a wooden puppet to portray Orlando’s aging servant Adam—a random idea that happens to work, as the puppet ends up being the anchor of the production’s most affecting scene. Still, the desultory choice reflects the scattered nature of the production as a whole. Much of the ensemble does solid work, with Silvius (Alex Hugh Brown) and Phebe (Caitlin Collins) particularly strong in reviving the dull proceedings in Act II. But the actors are held within the confines of their director’s vision, which loses sight of Shakespeare’s.

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