American Players' online 'As You Like It' is the next best thing to being up the hill

Posted June 23, 2020

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Lindsay Christians | The Capital Times | Jun 19, 2020

The virtually staged reading — video reading? Zoomplay? — of “As You Like It” that drops this Friday has the nostalgic appeal of a greatest hits album.

American Players Theatre, currently on physical hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, had good reason to choose this beloved Shakespeare comedy as the second release in its “Out of the Woods” reading series. They’ve produced the play twice in the last 10 years (2010 and 2018). That means a chunk of its core company have performed these roles before, if not in the same production.

That means we not only get to see get to see Tracy Michelle Arnold return to her mildly cynical, smirking Jaques from 2018 and Brian Mani as a devil may care duke. There’s also the return of my favorite combination of the clown Touchstone (David Daniel) and his lusty, slovenly goatherd paramour (Colleen Madden).

As I watched Daniel reel off double entendres while Madden made eyes at him through the screen, I remembered watching this same pairing in the Hill Theatre 10 years ago. That’s part of the pleasure of these readings. It feels like remembering the summer you first heard “Best of My Love” or “Three Little Birds.”  

John Langs, director of last summer’s “Twelfth Night,” returns to direct this “As You Like It” reading, and Joe Cerqua’s music lends an appealing folk rock vibe. There’s a lot of eavesdropping in “As You Like It,” for which Langs has the actors crouch in their little Zoom-squares. All we see is the tops of their heads, like forest mushrooms.

A quick refresher on the story! Rosalind and Celia are cousins and best friends. When Celia’s dad banishes first Rosalind’s dad and then Rosalind herself to the Forest of Arden, Celia goes too.

[Comic Chekhov one-acts open APT's reading series on PBS Wisconsin]

Ros figures “beauty provoketh thieves sooner than gold,” so like any good Shakespearean ingénue she swaps her skirt for pants and adopts a weird name (Ganymede). Luckily the wrestler she fell hard for just before leaving town is in the forest too, and he’s been carving poems about how hot she is on the trees. It’s a country romance!

Read the full review here.