As You Like It, by William Shakespeare, produced by Shakespeare Santa Barbara. At Fess Parker’s Winery, Saturday, August 12. Shows at the winery August 19 and 20, and at the Casa de la Guerra Saturday and Sunday, August 26 and 27, and September 2 and 3. All performances at 6 p.m.
Reviewed by Bojana Hill
Sweet are the uses of the wine country on a summer evening. Seated on the sprawling, sloped lawn of the Fess Parker Winery, the audience for As You Like It shared space with actors who transported them into the fairytale world of the Forest of Arden.
In Arden, the exiled Duke and his loyal supporters find refuge and solace from the usurping brother Frederick, the new Duke at the court. Meanwhile, Rosalind and Celia are loving cousins and close friends, despite their fathers’ fierce sibling rivalry. When Frederick banishes his niece Rosalind, Celia defies her father by swearing allegiance to her. Rosalind, disguised as the boy Ganymede, flees to Arden, along with Touchstone — the “wise fool” — and Celia, now disguised as Aliena. Thus thrust into an alien world, they seek adventure and reunion with Rosalind’s father. In a parallel subplot, the young Orlando, who has endured abuse by his own greedy brother, also escapes into the forest, only to find it inhospitable. Still, “sweet are the uses of adversity,” and soon the exiles will discover liberty and happiness in the pastoral world, far from the conventions and intrigues of the corrupt court. The play ends with reunion and reconciliation, and no less than four couples to wed!
Irwin Appel transforms convincingly from a gentle Duke Senior to the choleric brother Frederick and is impressive on stage. The melancholy Jacques is played by Jeff Mills, who recites the famous “All the world is a stage” monologue soulfully. Gwyn Fawcett McColl has memorized a great deal for the role of Rosalind/Ganymede, as she must speak the most lines given to any Shakespearean heroine. McColl is particularly charming as Ganymede, with whom shepherdess Phebe falls hopelessly in love. The grassy “stage” was perfect for the smitten Silvius to chase Phebe into the woods, and for Touchstone to woo Audrey, even though she is not “poetical.” Jackie Apodaca, as Celia, exchanged witty repartees with James Donlon, who was well cast in a physically skilled role of Touchstone. Perhaps a richer musical interlude and more passionate expressions of love and longing would have strengthened this otherwise very good production. The historic Casa de la Guerra courtyard is sure to be another beautiful setting for the upcoming performances of As You Like It in the heart of Santa Barbara.