YOU LIKE IT
by William Shakespeare
Bard on the Beach
June 2-September 25
Bard on the Beach launches its 16th season of Shakespeare as
a Vancouver summer institution and unequivocal commercial success,
with four shows running under two tents and near sold-out houses
most nights. The quality of its artistic product has also improved
steadily over the past few years. So it’s surprising that,
with a couple of significant exceptions, this year’s opening
show is so relatively uninspired.
Like most of Shakespeare’s comedies, As
You Like It takes place in both
the courtly and natural worlds, with a high comic romance plot and low comic
rustics who parody it. Here the sharpest commentary comes from Touchstone the
clown and Jaques the melancholic philosopher, who have left the court for exile
in the Forest of Arden. They are the reason for seeing this show.
With Jay Brazeau not yet returned from Toronto, David Mackay
is presently the funniest actor in the city and he displays endless
comic invention in the role
of the citified jester. When not mocking Arden’s hicks or the courtly
lovers, Touchstone mocks his own lust for the goat-herd Audrey (sweetly underplayed
Kerry Sandomirsky). Mackay’s astonishingly funny mock-killing of his
country rival William (Peter Huck) is easily the high point of the evening’s
long second act.
The play’s other highlight is Scott Bellis’ raffish
Jaques, unshaven in a long coat and scraggly hair. Usually played as relentlessly
this Jaques can be manic, playful, even charming before lapsing suddenly
into bitterness. Bellis is magnetic in delivering the play’s most famous
speech, the deeply cynical “All the world’s a stage.” He
ends it staring off into the void with haunted eyes as a Forester (Josh Epstein)
ho the holly, this life is most jolly” to a melancholy tune, and the
play breaks for intermission.
This powerful, carefully constructed moment shows director
Robert McQueen at his best. Elsewhere, he appears to leave the
actors to their own devices.
Gilchrist and Tobias Slezak often seem adrift as the courtly lovers Rosalind
and Orlando, who have to carry most of the show without much physical
business. They don’t manage many sparks in their scenes together, she disguised as
a boy and he making a lovesick fool of himself.
The comic country lovers, Sylvius and Phebe (David Beazely
and Rebecca Auerbach), are pleasantly goofy but not terribly
Gerry Mackay does strong work as the nasty Duke Senior in black
leatherette. Except for a luminous black dress for Celia (a spunky
Karen Rae), costumer
Mara Gottler has foregone her usual gorgeous outfits for a Star Trek-ish
Folk Festival gear for the country. The plastic leaves on the trees
of Kevin McAllister’s set and a cheesy WWF-style wrestling match send equally mixed
False Creek and the North Shore still give Bard an incomparable
natural backdrop, though houses have crawled a little farther
up the mountainside.