Andrew Hamm: the Bipolar Express

Ruminations on theatre, music, and just about anything else that crosses my bipolar brain.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: "As You Like It" is "a spirited take on the comedy"

Setting clicks for spirited "As You Like It"
by Werner Trieschmann
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
June 17, 2011

LITTLE ROCK — Plan to perform "As You Like It" outdoors in June in Arkansas and you can expect to like it hot and steamy. But just when the Arkansas Shakespeare Festival was about to kick off its fifth season at The Village at Hendrix in Conway, what must have been the only black cloud in the state parked itself over the stage as well as the waiting crowd sitting on blankets and chairs in front of it.

The black cloud didn’t produce any rain Thursday. The strong wind that came with it did push some curtains around, but then the weather settled down. The happy result was a cool evening in which the game performers offered a spirited take on the Shakespeare comedy that goes to the forests of Arden to tangle and untangle many romantic knots.

The production, directed by Andrew Hamm, was playful and managed to walk the very fine line of being funny without falling completely over into corny. An early wrestling match between the fearsome Charles (Dan Matisa, wearing a Mexican wrestling mask) and fearful Orlando (David Huynh) was a highlight. The wrestlers even used the old hit-the-opponent-with-a-folding-chair trick.

"As You Like It" is pretty much about the love affair between Rosalind (Amy Fritsche) and Orlando. Fritsche brought a recognizable zeal to the part, especially when disguised as a man and spurning the advances of Phebe (Caroline Mincks). Huynh played the lovesick puppy part to the hilt.

As Orlando’s brother, Oliver, Derrick Parker did some nice double-takes and stares of disbelief in the second act. Matisa, playing in the second act the melancholy Jaques (who delivers the famed “All the world’s a stage” speech), is a natural comedian and offered a fresh spin to his lines throughout.

While the entire company of actors did have to compete with thunder rumbling in the distance and microphones that cut out from time to time, they held the sizable crowd’s attention.

The enjoyable evening was capped by a song about the spring in which the cast incongruously but hilariously danced the macarena. Put that together with the lovely setting of Hendrix Village and cooperative Arkansas weather, and the Shakespeare Festival’s decision to take it outdoors was a smart one.

"As You Like It" continues today and Sunday with pay-what-you can-performances at 7:30 p.m. at The Village at Hendrix on the Hendrix College campus, 1600 Washington Ave., in Conway.


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