Meredith Garretson and Jon Orsini in "As You Like It." Photo by Jim Cox
Who wouldn’t want to escape to the Forest of Arden brought to life in the Old Globe’s new production of As You Like It? The pastoral setting designed by Tobin Ost is peaceful, even magical. The atmospheric lighting by Stephen Strawbridge is ideal for both the romance and the harmless intrigue of perhaps Shakespeare’s most beloved comedy. There’s original music by Obadiah Eaves that throughout evokes the lighthearted emotional intensities of characters brazen, bold and hopelessly smitten. In short, this is a forest where it’s easy to believe in love at first sight.
As You Like It opens the Old Globe’s 2019 Summer Shakespeare Festival on the outdoor Lowell Davies stage. To direct, the Globe selected Jessica Stone, whose credits for the theater include a charming Barefoot in the Park last year and a cleverly conceived Ken Ludwig’s Robin Hood! the year before, both in the intimate Sheryl and Harvey White space. This is Stone’s first time directing Shakespeare and she has just the right touch. This As You Like It is as heady and exhilarated as first love without ever turning silly.
Its tale is much told: Young Rosalind (Meredith Garretson) is banished from the duchy of her uncle, who has usurped her father (both dukes are portrayed by Cornell Womack). Already Rosalind has met and fallen for the dashing gentleman Orlando (Jon Orsini), and upon settling in the Forest of Arden with her cousin (Nikki Massoud) and Touchstone the clown (Vincent Randazzo) she again encounters Orlando, who has fled his own home. Learning of his love for her too, Rosalind disguises herself as a gentleman and, naturally, delightful complications ensue.
Besides Garretson, who brings tremendous charisma to her role, the Globe cast features Mark H. Dold, stealing moments as the melancholy Jaques. It is he who famously observes that “All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women merely players.”
Given this play and the other Shakespeare offering that will be produced on the Festival Stage beginning in August, Romeo and Juliet, 2019’s summer at the Old Globe could be considered the “Summer of Love.” Now that’s worth celebrating.
(Review originally published in San Diego CityBeat on 6/26/19.)
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.