The Bay Street Theater cast reprise their roles in John Doyle's music-infused production of Shakespeare's pastoral romance at Classic Stage Company. Featuring Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn. More…
An exiled Duke, his banished daughter, a gentleman in love, and a melancholy traveler. Classic Stage Company artistic director John Doyle and Oscar-winning composer Stephen Schwartz bring Shakespeare’s beloved romantic comedy–with its lovers in disguise, troubadours in trouble, and some of Shakespeare’s most beloved characters–to life in this pared-down production.
"Rarely have I seen such widespread joy cross so many faces like the wave at a football game as I observed during John Doyle’s fleet, exuberant, giddy-making production. And for good reason...The comedy is robust, the gravitas is deep yet not portentous...The heavy linguistic lifting is handled with ethereal bliss by a trio of experts...There’s magic in the air, and then, in just 90 too-brief minutes, it’s gone." Full Review
"At its best, director-designer Doyle’s production conjures moments of giddy awe that approximate the sense of being a child at play in a forest...Such a genial, organic approach has its pluses and minuses: You gain intimacy and emotional delicacy, and lose some of the drive and anarchic wit. Still, Cabell makes for one of the brightest and pluckiest Rosalinds I’ve seen in years. She’s countered amusingly by Quincy Tyler Bernstine’s Celia." Full Review
"Under John Doyle’s exacting direction, the ensemble cast is uniformly excellent. Their performances–believable and authentic–carefully explore their characters’ levels of complexity and the engaging conflicts that drive the comedy’s fluid plot. The production is marred, however, by the inability of the audience to hear the dialogue...Overall, the Classic Stage Company’s 'As You Like It' is a fitting addition to the Company’s fifty years of excellence in theatre." Full Review
"A lighthearted romp that forgoes some of the heavier political and personal grievances that chased the main characters into the forest in the first place...Schwartz’s catchy jazz melodies...take the often scene-stalling 'songs' that are already in the play and extend them out much further to practical effect...De Shields’ performance is both magical and uproariously funny...Burstyn’s delivery is revolutionary...A satisfyingly full production that almost feels like a terrifically fun musical." Full Review
“While the early parts of the play seem a bit rushed from all the cuts, once the play moves to the Forest of Arden it settles down into a stable comic rhythm. Performed without an intermission, John Doyle's production moves swiftly and ends on a happy, upbeat note. This pared-down Shakespeare seems to be the current new trend, not to all minds, but offering pleasures of its own. The Stephen Schwartz song settings turn this into almost a full-fledged musical comedy.” Full Review
"The play's essential pleasures are unharmed by all the text and character cuts...Hannah Cabell is a terrifically engaging Rosalind...Overall, the whole closely knit ensemble is fun to watch...If I had to pick a single standout from all these excellent performers, I wouldn't hesitate for a minute: He may be older than most Touchstones but I can't recall seeing a more memorable one than song and dance veteran André De Shields." Full Review
"Doyle has slashed the text to its barest of bones and reduced scenic demands...The approach…has made Shakespeare’s breeziest, most joyful romantic comedy even breezier…The troupe is a true company, laughing at each other’s jokes and mistakes, encouraging and challenging one another…The staging and actors’ diction are sharp and unadorned, so that even with gaps the storytelling is clear…It’s not challenging or innovative, but it’s warm, inviting, and utterly lovely.” Full Review
"Doyle has put the emphasis in William Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy on imagination, music and the actor-audience relationship...Although I missed some scenes, dialogue and characters that were cut, there are many delightful additions, such as the way the country bumpkin William was cast from the audience and the way Orlando’s bad poetry was smartly musicalized. Kudos to Mr. Doyle for shaking any cobwebs off of 'As You Like It' and giving us a vibrant new rendering of a classic." Full Review
“Charming but not altogether successful…Some scenes and characters have been trashed or condensed...John Doyle, hewing to his signature style of paring away as much as possible of the script…Doyle's bare, wood-planked, brick-backgrounded set is saved from boredom by a delightfully attractive arrangement of multiple, varisized lighting globes…Stephen Schwartz composed the wonderful, jazz-inflected tunes…Burstyn not only makes every word count, she lands many laughs.” Full Review
"There’s something admirably loose at the way Doyle tells the story...Because the entire enterprise has the come-what-may feel to it, it has an overall easy appeal. Much of it comes across as understated even at times when the characters are comically overstated...Do notice that at the finale the four couples united are mixed. Is a statement being made? It is, whether intentional or not, and certainly it’s a welcome vision for these racism-stuffed parlous days." Full Review
"Doyle’s textual cuts are so numerous that the play becomes too choppy. The transition from the royal court to the woods is also muted due to the bare, all-purpose scenic design. Nevertheless, the intimate production is mostly enjoyable, possessing a speed and seamlessness that suits the play’s whimsical nature. The audience receives a good deal of attention, and one lucky guy is even selected for a cameo. The cast is excellent." Full Review
"Doyle’s vision unfolds over 100 continuous minutes, made possible by judicious editing that retains the play’s witty interlacing of disguises and mistaken identity...This qualifies as bare-bones Shakespeare, but it retains a degree of charm. Played up close and personal to the audience that remains in half-light throughout, it is unpretentious and high-spirited." Full Review
"The story’s a little muddy, but director John Doyle and company still fill this trip to Shakespeare’s Forest of Arden with lots of happy sightseeing...The cast all contribute to an eminently watchable production even if the storytelling sometimes seems muddled...The language–abounding in wit and poetry–begins to sound more archaic than usual...Nevertheless, it is a production packed with goodies...The songs give the show yet another extra frisson." Full Review
"All the ingredients are here for a delightful skip and swing through the woods into love and marriage, but strangely it just doesn’t really grab hold. Even with the wonderfully fun characterizations...the language doesn’t feel wondrous enough...The poetry of Shakespeare’s 'As You Like It' isn’t there, and what is there is not to my liking. It stumbles in the woods, and no amount of colorful globes of light, rainbow umbrellas, or jaunty tunes will save the story from falling on its face." Full Review
"The principal characters and speeches remain, but without the tension and texture that cohere them. The result is a lot of coming and going that rarely makes best use of its ensemble cast...What’s missing is the weight that can give romance its footing. There are moments to like here, but not enough to love." Full Review
"There’s a lot of hell-raising, some of it funny, going on in director Doyle’s staging...But is it Shakespeare?...Doyle’s cast plunges into his conception with enthusiasm, and in particular cases, with special acting talent...While there are doses of charm and humor, the beauty of the Bard’s language is mostly buried. And by truncating the work way beyond some prudent editing, we do not get the play interpreted close to what it probably was meant to be by the author." Full Review
"Perhaps in part because the first song doesn’t come along until a half-hour into the proceedings, Doyle’s 'As You Like It' gets off to a slowish, oddly unspecific start...Truth to tell, I never really thought that Doyle’s underlying concept for the production registered with full clarity, nor did it seem that he was entirely at ease with Shakespeare’s comic side. Fortunately, the rest of the cast is full of fine performers, and the second half of the show took wing and gave much pleasure." Full Review
"Mr. Doyle does little to distinguish space, resulting in a somewhat monotonous staging; the shift to the forest is indicated through lighting changes, the wrestling match shoved offstage, and the burden left almost entirely on the shoulders of his actors. What a relief that they rise to the challenge." Full Review
"There’s a lot that’s mismatched in this production...In fact, there’s downright perplexity along with plenty of charm...The costumes are a mixed bag...Same for the music...Major kudos to Cabell for being not only comprehensible while speed-speaking but actually captivating...The remainder of the cast has highs and lows...There are many charms to this new production. But I say to Doyle: Take ten more minutes of our lives, or maybe fifteen...And the work will be the better for it." Full Review
"A mild-mannered affair – a passable production of limited enchantments. It’s energised by jazzy songs by Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz, but otherwise it favours understatement and fails to capture the play’s joy...As buoyant as these tunes are, the music plays a small role overall — we miss it when it’s gone...The cast, solid actors all, are stronger at the drama than the comedy and the lovestruck couples lack chemistry." Full Review
"Burstyn’s understated, precise performance delivers a riveting lesson in dramatic economy, simplicity, and truthfulness...There are a number of other moments during the course of 'As You Like It' that rise to almost the same performance level. But these moments are few and far between, and they do not channel Shakespeare as profoundly, or quite so effortlessly...This 'As You Like It' is reduced to a distillation of itself; more the idea of 'As You Like It' than the actual play." Full Review
"Doyle seems to have eschewed comedy in favor of a host of recycled ideas, leaving his actors to fend for themselves...The major problem with this production is that, for a comedy, it's just not that funny. Doyle embellishes the play with his usual kabuki-like flourishes...Sadly, Doyle neglects to refine the comic beats...Original songs fail to inject much levity...The result is a middling production of a second-rate comedy. But at a zippy 1 hour, 45 minutes, it goes by quickly enough." Full Review
"Between life-or-death exiles and jumbled romances, 'As You Like It' is built to spark a gamut of emotions. Alas, CSC’s revival of Shakespeare’s rom-com fires so few of them...Burstyn's take on the famous 'all the world’s a stage speech' comes and goes without making a mark. That’s pretty much par for the course for director Doyle’s staging...The show has a couple bright spots. Music by Schwartz for the song-stuffed play enhance the mood. And Doyle cleverly conjures the Arden woods." Full Review
"So cut down it has bled out...You can get a glimmer of what Doyle is after: a plain, vernacular presentation of the text by actors who look and sound like today...Admirable as this approach may seem in the abstract, there is something stingy about it in practice. All pageantry is lost...The deeper problem here is what happens when there is no style, or rather when the lack of style becomes a style in itself...It feels wrong to blame the cast for what is evidently Doyle’s doing." Full Review
"If a production falls flat in a forest, does anyone hear it?...The question springs to mind while watching John Doyle's 'As You Like It'...Whenever things threaten to become tedious, which is often, Doyle has the actors engage in such bits of business as sweeping the playing area or kicking around a soccer ball...The performances are all over the map, with the standouts being Hannah Cabell's feisty Rosalind and Quincy Tyler Bernstine's appealing Celia." Full Review
See it if You like innovative Shakespeare productions that are fully theatrical.
Don't see it if you don't like Shakespeare, or are a Shakespeare purist who only likes traditional productions.
See it if A truly fun staging of a popular Shakespeare comedy. Class Stage Company always delivers a great production.
Don't see it if It's not a very traditional staging, featuring original songs for the production. Purists and traditionalists may be less enthused.
See it if It's a truly amazing experience to be able too sit at the feet of so many theatre masters in such a small off Broadway Theatre 🎭. Brovo !
Don't see it if You don't like the bard.
See it if You’re open to a fresh take on Shakespeare with song, spirited energy, humor and passion without losing any of the original play
Don't see it if You need your Shakespeare unblemished or just don’t like Shakespeare
See it if you are a Shakespeare fan or want to see a new take on an old creation
Don't see it if you can't sit through a play with no intermission or can't follow Shakespeare's intricate plotlines
See it if You like a musical version of the play. Most of the actors played instruments and sang wonderfully-lovely new songs by Stephen Schwartz.
Don't see it if You're not romantic, don't like cabaret type music. Hate Shakespeare.
See it if You like new versions of Shakespeare that are focused on the words and actors. Love this intimate version with fantastic actors.
Don't see it if You want to see classically staged Shakespeare. This one is lotsa fun.
See it if You love Shakespeare. It's worth it just to hear Ellen Burstyn recite the famed "7 ages of man" monologue. plus the Stephen Schwartz music
Don't see it if You have a weak bladder - it's an hour and 45 minutes - no intermission.
See it if you know the play and want to see a delightful & concise version with a very talented cast.
Don't see it if you don't like Shakespeare or you love complete Shakespeare or you hate concepts.
See it if you love Shakespeare and want to see an entertaining interpretation of one of his best plays, complete with music!
Don't see it if you need big staging. The CSC is a great, intimate theater where the audience is a part of the performance.
See it if your autograph book needs signatures from legends Andre De Shields and Ellyn Burstyn (plus an anticipatory one from Quincy Tyler Bernstine).
Don't see it if you're going to compare it to the BAM production starring Rebecca Hall who gave the most emotionally real take on Rosalind I've ever seen.
See it if you enjoy John Doyle direction and scenic design. Starts slow but really got into it. Enjoyed Stephen Schwartz music. Really liked staging
Don't see it if you are not interested in a different way of seeing Shakespeare.
See it if You'd like a charming, relaxed, slightly off-beat production. Carefully diversified -- each of the 4 couples is racially mixed. Lovely songs
Don't see it if You like Shakespeare done conventionally with British accents and are jarred by women in men's roles and racial diversity in many parts.
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