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Tonight was opening night of The Bridge Project at Brooklyn Academy of Music's Harvey Theater. "As You Like It" was the play, which was directed by Sam Mendes.

I particularly liked the starkish set by Tom Piper, with the Arden forest set at the back of the stage, and everywhere else at the front, and the wonderfully atmospheric lighting by Paul Pyant. The setting and costumes were generic contemporary, with a few updates -- the shepherd Corin does a lot of fishing -- and there were a number of deft and funny directorial approaches to the play.

I thought the music was well integrated into the production -- it's listed as "Sound design by Simon Baker for Autograph" -- and I liked the Bob Dylan musical reference a lot. There was a wonderfully deft little dance for the actor who played the shepherd Corin, Anthony O'Donnell -- there were a number of double ups in casting -- although his character was the one who married the couples at the end. The final dance for the couples before the Epilogue was a lovely way to almost end the play and was very well performed.

The real music, though, is in the text, and it was a mixed bag. I was disappointed in much of the opening scenes, with a lot of declaiming, but not much rhythm in speech. One exception was Jonathan Lincoln Fried's Le Beau, when he fills in Orlando about the relationships in Duke Frederick's house, which was clear and measured.

Stephen Dillane spoke Jaques famous "All the world's a stage" speech like it was the center of a song cycle: seamless and inevitable, spoken in song without any stagy theatrics. Aaron Krohn's Silvius was sheer joy, a little goofy up front, but such a mensch, a bit like the kind Robert Martin in "Emma", and his speech was clear and natural. It's such a hard character to portray without seeming silly or cloying, and he aced it. Christian Camargo as Orlando kept the sappy part of his character well under control.

The scene in the scene that ended Act I with the death of Adam was beautifully portrayed by Ron Cephas Jones as First Lord and Alvin Epstein as Adam. It was subtle and very moving.

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Thanks for reviewing this production, Helene. I'm going to see both As You Like It and The Tempest next month. How was Juliet Rylance's performance as Rosalind? She's gotten stellar reviews for her Desdemona, and I am an unabashed fan of her stepfather, Mark Rylance.

Same here, DanceActress. I would like to hear more about Juliet Rylance who I saw in Othello and Stephen Dillane who was excellent in his reading of Four Quartets and Beckett in One Evening. I have tickets to As You Like It but not The Tempest (yet)


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Please take this in the context that it's from someone who likes theater least of the performing arts because, well it's theatrical, and if I want to hear someone yell, I'd rather go to the opera. And, even when my hearing was very sharp, after a while the words start to blend together, which makes me inept at foreign languages as well as my own aurally, and I tend to focus on voice quality and rhythm, as well as enunciation.

That said, what I liked best about Juliet Ryance's performance was the timbre of her voice, a mezzo. I really don't like Rosalind once she begins to toy with Orlando -- he's not a Benedict who's toying with her -- and I find her character's pseudo-wit tedious. There's only so much an actress can do with a smart-ass, and I found her dynamic range a bit limited. I loved her in the early scenes, and can imagine why she'd be wonderful as Desdemona.

She was heads above Michelle Beck's Celia in terms of rhythm and speech, but I preferred Beck's physical and emotional characterization. She was a warm presence, and her wisdom was quiet and subtle: no 'wink, wink she'll eat her words' damsel- in-distress for her.

As I mentioned earlier, Dillane was fantastic. I'd see him in anything.

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