Anthony J. Piccione
New York Critic
Like all other revivals, productions of William Shakespeare’s large canon of plays tend to be a mixed bag. Some prove to be colorful and innovative takes on these classics, while others make you fall asleep, if not scratch your eyes out. This past weekend at the Players Theatre, I found myself viewing the worst of the worst in this category of productions, when director/producer Carrie Isaacman’s production of “As You Like It” made me wish I weren’t there as a reviewer, so I could feel like I didn’t have to stay in the theater from beginning to end.
For starters, the production of “As You Like It” claims to be set in the late 1960s, despite staying true to the original Shakespearean text. However, if not for the note in the program, there’s nothing about this production – aside from maybe one costume resembling a hippie’s stereotypical dress wear – that would suggest this is the period in time in which this production is set in, with a practically non-existent set design and costumes that ranged from the time of the Bard himself to more contemporary outfits.
There are plenty of other aspects of this production that leave one with the impression that Ms. Isaacman and her band of actors was ill-prepared to bring this production to New York audiences. Among them being that the show started 5 minutes earlier than its advertised start time, and when it did start, it took an extra minute or so to dim the house lights. Or that you could hear actors regularly talking loudly backstage. Or that I could count at least one delayed entrance from an actor, and one other instance in which an actor awkwardly pointed in the opposite direction that they were supposed to, judging by the blocking of the show. Or that the play ran in its entirety without intermission.
None of these errors, however, are as egregious as the fact that all the actors were reading from the script. Not so cleverly disguised as medieval scrolls, Ms. Isaacman’s attempt to pass this off as staying true to past times when reading from the script was more common fail to be convincing. Rather, it comes off as a show with either lazy actors or poor direction, or perhaps a combination of both. If this show had been advertised as a reading of “As You Like It”, perhaps I would have been more sympathetic. However, any full production where the actors are reliant on the words they should have been memorizing can be categorized as nothing short of a failure, as far as I’m concerned.
For a playwright who is so admired and frequently produced centuries after his death, you would think that revivals of Shakespeare’s work would be treated with far more respect. Instead, we were left with the impression that this company was giving a giant middle finger to the Bard. It’s exactly the type of production that gives both revivals and indie theatre a bad name, and by the time of the show’s forced and highly awkward talkback, the entire audience had little to say and a strong desire to get out. Avoid. Avoid. Avoid.
AS YOU LIKE IT
“As You Like It” stars Kaitlin Creed Boyce, Colin Colford, Brian Acosta Arya, Suzanne Du Charme, Melanie Gretchen, Michael Hagins, Katie Harden, Carrie Isaacman, James Jagiello, Steven Macropoulos, Kasper Kuzmicki, Charles Lear, Joe Crow Ryan, Sabrina Seidner, Stephanay Slade, and Roger Stude.
“As You Like It” is written by William Shakespeare and directed by Carrie Isaacman, featuring lighting design by Erin Nihill, costume design by Deborah Houston, and press representation from Jay Michaels Arts and Entertainment.
“As You Like It” – presented by Shakespeare Sports – runs at the Players Theatre from November 30th-December 8th.