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LA Theater Review

As You Like It

The frothy comedy with the throwaway title shows just how easily the Bard of Avon could toss off a gem of a play, in this case as he prepared to pen his quartet of great tragedies. Here, standard elements like men in power banishing those family members who hinder them, a young woman disguised as a young man, the presence of a wise jester, and the theme of unrequited love are given a vigorous workout. The script would achieve greatness even if roughly performed by amateurs; Carl Reggiardo is a master, and between his even, relaxed directorial hand and the casually accomplished work of his cast, he elevates the material to new heights. The pace is gentle, the tone lyrical and wryly funny.

The cast gives Elizabethan English a contemporary sound, causing the underlying, universal emotions to resonate. As Rosalind and Celia, cousins with a sisterly bond, Kara Revel and Mitra Avani achieve the kind of conspiratorial closeness of schoolgirls at a slumber party. Revel's Rosalind is bubbly and playful, Avani's Celia more choleric. As Orlando, the young man Rosalind is in love with, Ted Jonas is like a big moonstruck kid. Greg Ungar's Touchstone, the jester who accompanies Rosalind and Celia into the Forest of Arden, is wise and even-tempered. John Frederick Jones is a suitably melancholy Jaques, putting all the right inflections into the "seven ages of man" speech. Jeremy Schaeg's shepherd Silvius is a lovesick sap hung up on Phebe, who has fallen for Rosalind in her guise as the young man named Ganymede. Phebe doesn't appear until well into Act 2, yet Stephanie Robinson walks off with her every scene, delivering expert comic timing in the form of slapstick and idiosyncratic line readings. Reggiardo's design team is exceptional, with kudos to William and Jennifer Georges (original music) and Kathryn Wilson (costume design).

Presented by Shakespeare Orange County at the Festival Amphitheatre, 12740 Main St., Garden Grove. July 9–25. Thu.–Sat., 8:15 p.m. (714) 590-1575.

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