Friday, February 19, 2010

As You Like It

When I saw a poster on the New York subway for The Bridge Project, I was filled with memories of London and my two favorite productions of the summer: The Bridge Project's The Cherry Orchard and The Winter's Tale and wished I had the disposable income to fly back and see the second season. When I looked closer and realized that they were still in New York, I was ecstatic.

So off on a train to Brooklyn we went, to the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Harvey Theatre, a beautifully dilapidated theatre built in 1914 that was renovated in the seventies only enough to become a functioning theatre once more, but still clearly a haunting shadow of its former heyday. The second season, consisting off As You Like It and The Tempest (the latter not opening until March), did not have the headlining names of the first season (Ethan Hawke, Rebecca Hall) but was still a beautiful ensemble with great performances.

Once again Sam Mendes has created a beautiful world with music and light. One of Shakespeare's fluffier comedies, As You Like It lacks the tragic punches of last year's plays, but Mendes chose to balance the fun and joy with darker moments, including a waterboarding interrogation scene. But where joy is concerned, the play beautifully presents love and relationship and happiness in a world that seems to glow from the inside out. Said glow radiates out of heroine Rosalind, played by the effervescent Juliet Rylance, with an ease and wit that makes her instantly lovable.

The triple wedding scene at the end can quickly become cliche, but in this production, it felt more like a very pleasant dream. I would have loved to see what parallels Mendes will draw between this and The Tempest, and would highly recommend anyone on the East Coast or with plans to be in London this summer to see them together.

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