There are some Shakespeare shows that are not quite as bulletproof as others. If the pacing isn't there or the casting or both then they can run into an uphill battle. Such was the case with Seattle Shakespeare Company's current production of "As You Like It". While having some lovely moments and definitely picking itself up in Act Two, it suffered from some uneven casting and pacing that left the show just so so.
Another one of his gender bending comedies, I think of "As You Like It" as a not so tight version of "Twelfth Night". Rosalind (Hana Lass) has been banished by her Uncle the Duke (Ray Gonzalez) and flees the kingdom with her Cousin Celia and the fool Touchstone (Rebecca Olson and Darragh Kennan). But before they leave she meets and falls for the also banished Orlando (Nathan Graham Smith). So when both parties flee into the woods they are of course bound to run into each other. But in an effort to keep her and her Cousin safe on the way, Rosalind disguises herself as a boy, Ganymede, who ends up befriending the young Orlando and shows him the way to woo the fair Rosalind. And that's just the tip of the duplicitous iceberg as there are other love connections, some misguided and some not so, swirling around the couple. Not to mention deposed lords and Dukes and the play at times just gets too complicated for its own good. Yes, eventually it all works itself out (in an all too convenient resolution) but getting there is a bit of a long journey.
As you can tell, it's not one of my favorites. Act One is too long and too full of exposition and there are entirely too many lengthy breaks for song that move nothing along. As I said, it picks up in Act Two and manages some incredibly charming and witty moments but getting to that point doesn't quite seem worth it.
Lass and Smith are two high points of the show as the destined to be lovers. Both communicate the intention of the text above the prose quite well (a problem others have) and are adorable together. Olson also offers up some gorgeously real and fun moments as the cousin along for the ride. And Kennan is hilarious as always as the clown Touchstone. He can communicate volumes through the humor with a slight inflection or head tilt. And a special mention to Donna Wood who takes what could have been the throw away role of Audrey and running with it to hysterical result.
All in all a fair production of a difficult show. Not great, not bad, but fair. Am I glad I saw it? Sure, since it's not so often produced. Do I feel the need to see it again? Probably not.
"As You Like It" from Seattle Shakespeare Company performs at the Center House Theatre through June 24th. For tickets or information contact the Seattle Shakes box office at 206-733-8222 or visit them online at www.seattleshakespeare.org.
Photo credit: John Ulman