The Queen’s Company’s "As You Like It"

The Queen’s Company’s "As You Like It" isn’t a reworking or deconstruction of this Shakespeare classic, but a sweet rumination on love, romance and pain.

By Joel Benjamin

The Queen’s Company’s is devoted to giving classical and contemporary dramatic works the all-female treatment. If their current production, Shakespeare’s "As You Like It" at Walkerspace in Tribeca, is an example of their fare, then the Company and its Artistic Director, Rebecca Patterson are providing a fresh look at these works without the usual attendant harsh political/social rhetoric. This "As You Like It" is fresh, modern, yet devoted to the Shakespeare text. There is no gender bending: the women merely play all the parts, male and female.

Ms. Patterson’s decision to place the work in some vaguely Latin American setting in the midst of an even more vague revolution is arbitrary but didn’t weigh down this classic pastoral comedy/drama, although some peculiar nods toward 9/11 proved gratuitous.  "As You Like It," just like "A Midsummer Night’s Dream," is a play, despite some background martial strife, about love in all its manifestations from romantic to comic, complicated by the characters pretending to be what they aren’t and further twisted by the Queen’s take on the show. Having armed soldiers stomping about, constantly glancing upward at the sound of aircraft, was more disconcerting than illuminating, unbalancing the basic theme of the play.

Rohit Kapoor’s simple set was just right. Two tree stumps sat on the floor painted a mossy green. The backdrop was the silhouette of a large tree, both ominous and inviting. Anna Lacivita provided contemporary looking costumes with colorful trims and accessories that helped keep the characters straight, especially when several were played by one actor.

The actors weren’t totally convincing as men, mind you, but this lack of machismo emphasized the humor of the various plots and made the lighter moments, such as the wooing of Ganymede (Rosalind in guy drag) by Phoebe the shepherdess a delight. Having Tiffany Abercrombie play the lumbering wrestler Charles and sexy Phoebe was sweetly ironic. As Rosalind/Ganymede, Elisabeth Ahrens had a dreamy quality. That she had her cousin Celia accompany her in her banishment to the Forest of Arden shows just a touch of fear under the bravado. As Celia, Annie Paul had a slightly tomboyish quality which she shed when she took on the character of Aliena who helps tame the ferocity of the evil Oliver, the usurper. Long haired Sarah Hankins was a lean and colorful Oliver. Virginia Baeta emphasized the boyish qualities of Orlando as he left silly poetry dedicated to Rosalind all over the Forest, but was convincingly aristocratic at the same time. Double casting Natalie Lebert as Touchstone the wise court fool and Jaques, the moodiest member of the Forest gang, showed off the silly and the serious side of this actress who recited the famous 'all the world’s a stage' soliloquy rather too matter of factly.

This troupe displayed a pleasant camaraderie and it will be interesting to see how they treat other classic plays. They are like an old fashioned band of travelling players, all on the same beam, all eager to please.

May 4th – 20th, 2012
Walkerspace
46 Walker St. (Between Broadway and Church St.)
New York, NY
May 4th – 20th, 2012
Tickets: SmartTix at 212-868-4444