Times-Dispatch: "This is as I like it."
A rollicking version of 'As You Like It'
Saturday, Mar 29, 2008 - 12:08 AM
By SUSAN HAUBENSTOCK
It was when Adam Mincks went to put on the tulle skirt that things went over the top.
Shakespeare's "As You Like It" depends on gender switching (the heroine, Rosalind, disguises herself as a man), and Richmond Shakespeare often depends on a tiny cast to portray multiple characters without regard to their sex.
But this five-actor "As You Like It" includes enough gender-bending to spin your head around.
It's the tale of Orlando, who falls in love with Rosalind just before she's banished from her uncle's court. She and her cousin Celia flee in disguise to the forest of Arden, where Rosalind's father is in exile.
There they meet various rustics, the clown Touchstone and the sentimental Jacques, as well as Orlando, who escapes to the forest when he learns that his brother is planning to kill him.
Everyone falls in love in the forest, and all ends well (but that's another play).
In this version, the comedy is amplified by quick changes of role that result in, for instance, bearded Patrick Bromley playing a country maiden and Julia Rigby as a lovelorn shepherd.
In Rebecca Cairns' endlessly versatile and lovely costumes, they add a cap here and a wreath there to mark the characters, with the actors' skills making the transformations magical.
As is the company's frequent practice -- at least for its indoor season -- costume pieces are hung in plain sight, so that when Mincks, hilarious here in numerous roles, goes for that skirt, we know that something even more delicious is coming.
Director Andrew Hamm (who is onstage as accompanist) has infused the production with physicality and music, his trademarks.
There's so much roughhousing that a fight choreographer (actor Frank Creasy) and a fight choreography consultant (David White) were needed to plan the action.
And Hamm has provided pleasant melodies so his cast can sing as appropriate. With nonstop energy and an approach to language that is colloquial and deceptively relaxed, Hamm has created a rollicking version of this classic.
Every actor is superb, especially considering the demands of their many roles. Rigby has less flashy parts such as Celia and Silvius, but she is charming. Bromley is romantic as the lovelorn Orlando and ridiculous as the silly goatherd Audrey.
Sunny LaRose is a marvelous Rosalind, brave and emotional and admirable, even when disguised as Ganymede. Creasy is a marvel as he morphs from aged servant Adam to wrestler Charles to emotional Jacques. Creasy is an actor who is always fully committed.
Mincks has a breakthrough performance here as he achieves perfection in a fistful of roles -- Oliver, the cruel brother who has a change of heart; the foppish courtier LeBeau; the dignified Duke Senior; the clown Touchstone; and the tulle-skirted Phoebe.
Mincks changes accents and attitudes with seeming ease; he even appears to change height. This is as I like it.