Shakespearean comedy livens a dreary January

Photo courtesy of The Atlanta Shakespeare Company

The New American Shakespeare Tavern is an original practice playhouse whose focus, as its name would suggest, centers on Shakespearean plays. To start the new year, the theatre brought one of Shakespeare’s better known comedies, “As You Like It,” to their energetic stage.

While the last time they performed this play was fairly recently, the elapsed time seems to have been enough for this comedy to still be funny for those who have seen it before as well as be enjoyable for first time viewers. However, despite having many of the same actors involved in the production of “As You Like It,” not much of this age-old play improved since its last showing. Of course, not much can be changed when the source material has remained virtually unaltered for centuries.

Even without much changing between productions of Shakespeare’s play, the actors’ skill on the stage manages to compliment and occasionally, to the betterment of the play, reign in the general loquaciousness that Shakespeare is known for.

While there are four different love stories intertwined in this play, it centers on that of Orlando and Rosalind. This comedy begins with an introduction to Orlando (Jonathan Horne), a noble who is despised by his brother, and as a result, is quite eager to participate in a wrestling match at the court in order to prove his worth and perhaps gain some respect. Orlando faces a rather intimidating opponent (Vinnie Mascola) and comes out victorious after a great display of acrobatics from both Horne and Mascola. Even with this victory, Orlando’s brother is still displeased with him, and Orlando flees for his life.

After this introduction, Rosalind (Dani Herd), who witnessed the wresting match and fell in love with Orlando, dresses as a man for various reasons, and goes into hiding with her cousin and the court jester. In their escape from Rosalind’s uncle, the three meet a shepherd and take up residence in the countryside; unbeknownst to them, their new house is very close to the encampment of the banished duke, Rosalind’s father, whom Orlando joins in exile.

With introductions out of the way, “As You Like It” proceeds to being a comedy with barely enough plot to still technically be called a story. While most of the events from this point on seem to happen purely for giggles, the end result is a humorous play, so the lack of realistic cause and effect can be excused.

Perhaps the most noteworthy performance of the play would be that of Drew Reeves whose character, “Melancholy” Jaques, delivered one of the most well-known Shakespearean verses: “All the world’s a stage,” which is followed by the less profound philosophy of the seven ages of man. The rest of this rather depressing character is performed by Reeves with gusto and manages to bring a bit of sadness and contemplation to the otherwise happy and carefree play.

Throughout the performance, as the four couples interweave and untangle their stories, Orlando and his brother try to come to an understanding, several boisterous yet pleasant songs are performed, and the audience can enjoy the comedy without taxing their minds with the complex plot of betrayal common to many plays.

“As You Like It” will be performed at the Shakespeare Tavern until Sunday, Jan. 31. For their next production, the theatre will be continuing their tradition of performing the story of the star-crossed lovers of “Romeo and Juliet” just in time for the celebration of Valentine’s Day.

Overall: 4/5