Friday, June 22, 2012
As You Really Want To Like It A Lot But Rarely See It Done So Well
You'll be reading a lot of raves today about Daniel Sullivan's Shakespeare In The Park production of As You Like It, and it deserves every one of them. Read them and play The Lily Rabe Shot Game (you have to drink a shot of tequila every time a reviewer uses the word "coltish" to describe her Rosalind). I saw it Tuesday night and I adored it. It's warm and funny and sweet and heartbreaking and not only miles beyond the Bridge Project's version with Juliet Rylance a couple of years ago, it's light years beyond the misguided yet well-reviewed Rebecca Hall version of 2005. I could rave about a lot of it too--the acting, the music, the way that Stephen Spinella's long hair and white-streaked gray beard make his Jaques look like Vincent Price vacationing from the set of one of those Roger Corman Poe movies in the 60's. But I'd rather spend a moment on the real star of this production: David Furr.
Furr plays Orlando. I can honestly say, he is not just the best Orlando I've ever seen--it's like he's the FIRST Orlando I've ever seen. The part is usually the wall against which Rosalind plays verbal handball, but not in this production. Furr takes a part which has been a huge pothole in every other production of this play I've seen, and he turns it into a freeway. He even makes Orlando's first scene work, which is pure exposition, and can be summed up by the words "Sit down a while, and let me fill your ears, with what you have already known for years." How good is his Orlando? It's right up there with Trevor Eve's performance of Torvald in the Juliet Stevenson Doll's House--which remains to this this day the only Torvald I've ever seen who breaks your heart.
Personally, I think the biggest reason why a lot of armchair critics and professional reviewers with Y chromosomes fall absolutely cock-a-hoop in love with the character of Rosalind is because every time they've read the play or even seen the play, Orlando is such a non-presence that Rosalind is effectively unattached--and therefore available for imaginary wooing. You read their reviews and you can just hear them saying to themselves, "That Orlando isn't worthy of her, but by God I sure am." (Check out the reviews of the Rebecca Hall Rosalind, and tell me all those male reviewers weren't just critically besotted. Jeez.)
Because this Orlando actually IS worthy of this Rosalind? There's no easy way to live out THAT fantasy while watching this production. Which makes this another first--the first AYLI I've seen where Rosalind is definitely, irrationally, irrevocably, and unapologetically well-matched as one half of a couple--which makes this also one of the most joyful productions of anything that I've ever seen.
Get on line now, people. Seriously.