Presented by The Hyperion Shakespeare Company and Harvard Office for the Arts
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Nathaniel Brodsky
Review by Polly Goss
(Cambridge, MA) As You Like It is a long-time favorite of audiences despite its often lowly standing among critics. The play deliberately borders on the nonsensical, as Shakespeare takes us on a glorious gender swapping romp through the mystical forests of Arden. This latest production from Harvard’s Hyperion Shakespeare Company successfully captures the intensity of first loves and the youthful energy at the heart of the piece. Whilst the direction felt a bit haphazard in places, the talent of some of the cast members helped to carry the show and pay tribute to the richness of Shakespeare’s script. As You Like It is a good choice for a student production of Shakespeare, the obvious enthusiasm of the actors (and their friends in the audience) made this production a pleasure to watch.
Rosalind (Annabel O’Hagan) and Celia (Elle Shaheen) had excellent stage chemistry and played these women with great warmth and playfulness. Shaheen’s Celia was a breath of fresh air, sarcastic and strong-willed, rather than playing her as a soppy tag-along to the beautiful Rosalind. Shaheen was a great comedic foil to the gooey-eyed Rosalind (O’Hagan), as she swoons over the equally besotted Orlando (Abraham Joyner-Meyers). The overall standard of acting varied amongst the cast, as is to be expected in a student production. Patric Verrone stood out however as Touchstone, he did an excellent job translating Elizabethan humor for a modern audience but still retained the inner seriousness of the character. Characteristic of Shakespeare’s Fools it is Touchstone and Jacques that deliver some of the most poignant lines of the play including Jacques’ famous “All the World’s a Stage” speech. Through these characters Shakespeare highlights a key motif of the play, humor is often more of a vehicle for truth telling than laughter.
Whilst Shakespeare’s narrative may be deliberately nonsensical at points, the lack of clarity in the direction was disappointing. There were a few quips that suggested a modern interpretation of Shakespeare’s world, like making Charles the wrestler wear WWF style gear and have Celia scroll boredly through her phone, but these felt off-hand and the production failed to really draw out any parallels between the play and the modern society.
Miranda Mize as the chorus helped to keep the pace as she sang beautifully, infusing the forest of Arden with the fantastical quality that Elizabethan audiences would have associated with the woodland. Overall the charm of The Hyperion Shakespeare Company’s production of As You Like It lay within the cast’s youthful exuberance. The production made these Elizabethan lovers feel somehow familiar, as the audience was reminded that whether through swiping right or swooning over Petrarchan sonnets, we can all share in the delightfully cringe worthy experience falling in love for the first time.