Anthony O'Donnen, Thomas Sadoski and Juliet Rylance in As You Like It
Credit: Joan Marcus

As You Like It

It takes almost two acts and about an hour for director Sam Mendes‘ production of As You Like It — now at the Brooklyn Academy of Music through March 13 — to set the right tone. And though it’s a comedy, the breakthrough moment comes courtesy of neither the play’s cross-dressing antics nor its complex love triangles. Rather, it arrives when perma-pessimist Jaques (the divine Stephen Dillane) begins his famous monologue: ”All the world’s a stage/ And all the men and women merely players.” Though he’s describing man’s slow march toward death, Dillane couldn’t be more dynamic. (And he does get his share of laughs. Watch him milk a line like ”I can suck melancholy out of a song as a weasel sucks eggs.”)

The rest of the goings-on in the Forest of Arden — where the bulk of the Bard’s plot-light pastoral romp takes place — aren’t nearly as rewarding, thanks to some major trans-Atlantic miscasting. (As part of the Bridge Project — a joint venture between BAM, England’s Old Vic Theatre, and Mendes’ Neal Street — the company is composed of British and American actors.) Ashlie Atkinson (Fat Pig) resorts to hair-tossing, finger-snapping, and talk-to-the-hand posturing as Phoebe the shepherdess. Thomas Sadoski (reasons to be pretty) plays Touchstone the jester just a touch too safely. But saddest of all is Christian Camargo; he’s terrific portraying characters who are either tortured (2008’s All My Sons) or murderous (Dexter), but he’s completely lost as the love-struck wrestler Orlando. He hardly cracks a smile when soliloquizing about his beloved Rosalind (the lovely, whiskey-voiced Juliet Rylance). Meanwhile, the sensational Rylance — disguised as a boy, because, of course, Shakespeare must complicate everything — does everything but back-handsprings to entertain us; still, Camargo looks nothing like a man in love. (Incidentally, Camargo and Rylance are real-life husband and wife.)

As in last season’s Cherry Orchard and Winter’s Tale, Mendes’ staging is visually arresting, even rather timely (the Duke and his followers look less like banished courtiers than a group of homeless guys simply trying to scrape together their next meal). One can’t wait to see what he conjures for the next Bridge production: the supernatural island-set adventure The Tempest, which begins Feb. 14 at BAM and stars Dillane as the magician Prospero. B-

(Tickets: or 718-636-4100)

As You Like It
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