There’s a lot of hell-raising, some of it funny, going on in director John Doyle’s staging of “As You Like It,” a presentation of the Classic Stage Company (CSC) in association with the Bay Street Theater. But is it Shakespeare? Doyle, who also designed the production, has sliced it up mercilessly, and in his style, has some of the actors doubling as musicians.
Doyle’s cast plunges into his conception with enthusiasm, and in particular cases, with special acting talent. The dress is contemporary (costume design by Ann Hould-Ward) but in a kind of mélange that doesn’t always add to character definition.
Most prominent is Hannah Cabell as Rosalind, who must be able to disguise herself as a male in the Bard’s convoluted tale. But as dressed, she doesn’t always look much different. However, Cabell does act convincingly in both states.
Veteran actor André de Shields is entertainingly hammy and a scene-stealer as Touchstone. The cast is graced with the renowned Ellen Burstyn in the role of Jacques. Bob Stillman doubles as Duke Frederick and Duke Senior; Noah Brody doubles as Oliver and Corin; Quincy Tyler Bernstein plays Celia; Cass Morgan is Old Anna and Audrey; Leenya Rideout is Phoebe; David Samuel is both Charles and Silvius, and Kyle Scatliffe is Orlando.
None other than Stephen Schwartz has provided some original music, with at least some catchy moments. There is felicitous lighting design by Mike Baldassari. But a problem with this production is that 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 (assuming one should ever do that to Shakespeare), we do not get the play interpreted close to what it probably was meant to be by the author, but only in the form of what emerges from a particular director’s noggin. At the Classic Stage Company (CSC) 136 East 13th Street. Phone: 212-677-421. Reviewed September 29. 2017.