|Photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp|
|The cast of As You Like It.|
Usually, even mediocre to bad Shakespeare has Shakespeare going for it. Sure, maybe the interpretation is wrong headed or the acting isn't crisp, but the poetry of the Bard wins out.
That's not the case in the Acting Company/Guthrie Theater production of As You Like It, now at the Guthrie Theater. Dan Rothenberg's direction is so wrong headed and the acting so sedate that almost all of the life is leached out of the material.
Like a Flaming Lips video stretched out for more than 2 1/2 hours, the production layers oddball image upon oddball image: a trio of wind-up turntables provide music, sound effects, and become substitute cows. Actors in oversized animal masks wander the woods. Sad-sack Jaques looks more like he is about to go on tour with My Morning Jacket than be part of a band of exiles from the court.
Call it hipster Shakespeare if you will. The performers certainly seem as detached from the action as the characters in a mumblecore movie. Or maybe that sense comes from the pace, especially in the first act.
The young performers seem frightened by their dialogue, slowing their delivery to the point that it is easy to follow, but has no real passion. That aspect did improve as the show went on, but the opening minutes of the play put the whole thing on a poor footing.
The whole more-twee-than-you staging isn't necessary. As You Like It is a pretty odd duck anyway, full of courtly manners in a rustic setting and centered on a man wooing another man who is pretending to be his love, Rosalind. Except that second man really is Rosalind.
Meanwhile, a show described in the promotional material as one of Shakespeare's "greatest comedies" generated only a few laughs along the way. The whole thing came off as a kind of sideshow oddity.
IF YOU GO:
As You Like It
The Guthrie Theater
818 S. Second St., Minneapolis
Through February 3
For more information and tickets, call 612.377.2224 or visit online.
818 S. 2nd St., Minneapolis, MN