The forests in Shakespeare plays have always promised some mischief, mistaken identities, and flirty couples and the Forest of Arden in AS YOU LIKE IT, currently playing at The Old Globe through July 21st is no exception. The opening show for the Summer Shakespeare Festival on the outdoor Lowell Davies stage is a delightful and romantic romp through a forest and is a perfect way to spend a summer night in San Diego.
It starts out with some noble families, where Orlando (Jon Orsini) finds himself at odds with his older brother Oliver (Aubrey Deeker Hernandez) and soon is looking for a new place to call home. Meanwhile, the title and lands of Duke Senior have been stolen by his brother Duke Frederick (both parts played by Cornell Womack) and is forced to live in the forest. Rosalind (Meredith Garretson) is the daughter of Duke Senior who is only still in the Duchy due to her close relationship with her cousin Celia (Nikki Massoud).
Rosalind and Orlando fall in love at first sight when he comes to her Uncle’s court, but they are soon separated. When her uncle’s mood sours Rosalind finds herself banished in the forest, conveniently enough where her lost love Orlando, and her father Duke Senior are currently residing. Rosalind disguises herself as a gentleman thinking it will make her journey through the forest easier, Celia joins her on her journey into the forest, albeit in less sensible, but gorgeous dresses.
Once in the forest, with new names, identities as shepherds, and Rosalind in her gentleman’s attire she runs into Orlando again. From there the frothy, fantastic, fun in the forest, love at first sight, and the belief in a happily ever is just one short comedic journey away.
Garretson as Rosalind is charming and captivating, it’s easy to see why Orlando loves her. She is the heart of a show about love and affection and wins the audience over as easily as she does Orlando. Orsini’s Orlando is a man who approaches everything with energy and earnestness as he papers the forest with love letters to Rosalind, but there is a believable core of steel that allows him to stand up for himself to his brother.
Other standouts are Massoud as Celia, who supports her cousin Rosalind but can’t always seem to understand the decisions she makes. Mark H. Dold also was an audience favorite as the more melancholy philosopher lord Jaques, who watches, judges, and comments on the actions around him.
Directed by Jessica Stone the show keeps the romance and the comedy sweet and bubbly, like a fine champagne.
Thanks to scenic designer Tobin Ost has created as soft, and lovely forest for everyone to play in. Along with a painting with some magic in it that allows scenes from other locations to able performed without breaking the bucolic mood in Arden. Lighting design by Stephen Strawbridge adds to the dreamy and romantic atmosphere.
Costume design by David Israel Reynoso is utterly gorgeous (and enviable) with lush fabrics, and fitted silhouettes that give way to full skirts. The men’s costumes are no less beautiful with breeches topped with beautifully patterned and embroidered waistcoats and jackets. All rendered in nature inspired colors that prove the country is where love and life can thrive away from court. (Where can any or all of these costumes be purchased? Asking for a friend)
AS YOU LIKE IT may not be the most complex plot that Shakespeare has written, but this talented cast proves the Forest of Arden is still a charming place to escape to for a few hours.
AS YOU LIKE IT is playing at the outdoor Old Globe Lowell Davies Festival theatre through July 21st. For show time and ticket information go to www.oldglobe.org