AS YOU LIKE IT D: John Hirsch, w/ Roberta Maxwell, Rosemary Dunsmore and Andrew Gillies (CBC/Morningstar, 1983) Rating: NNNN
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING D: Peter Moss, w/ Richard Monette, Tandy Cronyn, William Hutt and Brent Carver (CBC/Morningstar, 1987). Rating: NNN
The CBC reaches back into its vaults for a pair of 1980s Stratford productions, two of Shakespeare's most popular comedies, As You Like It and Much Ado About Nothing.
The 1983 As You, helmed by John Hirsch, sets up a surprisingly oppressive, dictatorial world to play out a story of love and regeneration, making the happy ending even sweeter than usual.
Anchoring the piece are Roberta Maxwell and Rosemary Dunsmore as cousins Rosalind and Celia, who enter the wintry forest of Arden and discover mates and family. The two actors have fine chemistry and show us the journey that each woman travels to find contentment.
Hirsch's production has many other pluses, not least of them the wonderful Nicholas Pennell, who creates a tousle-haired Jaques, less peevish than many; every scene he's in provides a lesson on how to speak the Bard and draw a rich characterization. Andrew Gillies makes an energetically youthful Orlando.
Much Ado (1987) pairs future Stratford artistic director Richard Monette with Tandy Cronyn, daughter of Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, as sparring lovers Benedick and Beatrice. Cronyn's flat performance doesn't find much comedy in the play's wit, but Monette's turn of phrase and sense of humour and irony are nicely captured onscreen. Too bad the pair, directed by Peter Moss, don't have the chemistry the play requires.
But add William Hutt's suave, charming Leonato and one of Brent Carver's rare excursions into villainy as the coolly manipulating Don John and the production provides a few extra pleasures.
Look fast in these vids and catch glimpses of future stars Seana McKenna, Graham Abbey and Erik McCormack in smaller roles.