One of the most surefire crowd-pleasers in the Shakespeare canon, As You Like It depends on a tricky chemical mix of buoyancy and gravity. In Actors’ third park production of 2019, director Pam Hill and her actors strike that balance almost perfectly.
As You Like It, for all its court intrigue and hijinks, hinges on the friendship between Celia (Emma Lou Andrews), daughter of the reigning Duke Frederick (Jacob Erney), and Rosalind (Kelsey Hopkins), daughter of Frederick’s exiled brother Duke Senior (Casey Merkey). That relationship soars in the forefront here; Andrews and Hopkins’ comic chemistry bubbles with effervescent lightness, while keeping enough grit to give ballast to the stakes of young love.
Orlando (Samuel Partridge), suddenly and irrevocably smitten with Rosalind, brims with lovable goofball charm. The clockwork-smooth goofy pinball ricocheting between Partridge and Hopkins’ Rosalind in drag as “Ganymede” sizzles like corn liquor on a hot sidewalk, as does Hopkins’ parrying of Ganymede’s misbegotten love Phoebe (an antic and gleeful Megan Lear). Aidan Behrens matches Lear’s energy in her invisible beloved Silvius.
Erney and Merkey’s Dukes summon hints of an epic gravitas and real danger that makes exile seem like a true pardon from death while simultaneously the end of the world, without dragging the ineffable sweetness and charm of the proceedings down. Micah Logsdon’s Jaques takes one of the most iconic of Shakespeare’s truth-telling fools, who hones the character to stiletto sharpness and makes some of the writers’ most well-trod speeches (including “All the world’s a stage”) feel organic and fresh.
As You Like It takes the tropes most often associated with Shakespeare – women disguised as men; multiple weddings; a mystical forest – and boils them down to their purest form. Hill and her cast trust the material enough to shine a light on what’s always been there and create a lovely summer parfait.
As You Like It runs through August 11 with performances at 8 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. All performances are free with donations accepted, for more details including reserved seating, visit theactorstheatre.org/2019-season/as-you-like-it.
Richard Sanford is a freelance contributor to Columbus Underground covering the city’s vibrant theatre scene. You can find him seeking inspiration at a variety of bars, concert halls, performance spaces, museums and galleries.
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