Theater review by Adam Feldman
The diet doctor is back. Shakespeare’s romantic comedy As You Like It usually runs about two and a half hours; under the typically stringent regimen of Classic Stage Company’s John Doyle, however, it rushes by in an intermissionless 100 minutes. The Forest of Arden, to which Rosalind (Hannah Cabell) flees to escape a tyrannical duke, is empty except for a trunk, an upright piano and some acorn-shaped hanging lights of ever-changing hue. Similarly shapeless is the production itself: The principal characters and speeches remain, but without the tension and texture that cohere them.
The result is a lot of coming and going that rarely makes best use of its ensemble cast. There is not much in Cabell’s grinning, easily flustered Rosalind to suggest the self-command that led critic Harold Bloom to call her “first in poise of all Shakespearean characters.” The great Ellen Burstyn seems stranded as the cynical Jaques: suitably bitter in the middle but oddly vague and genial at the start and end. Quincy Tyler Bernstine’s Celia—ardently loyal, then blasé—has a magnetic worldliness, and Leenya Rideout delivers tasty comic bits as a hard-hearted country lass. (This being a Doyle joint, she also plays multiple instruments during Stephen Schwartz’s songs, written in a mode of unassuming Great American Songbook pastiche.) What’s missing is the weight that can give romance its footing. There are moments to like here, but not enough to love.
Classic Stage Company (Off Broadway). By William Shakespeare. Directed by John Doyle. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 40mins. No intermission. Through Oct 22.