AS YOU LIKE IT by William Shakespeare, directed by Daryl Cloran, with Jacklyn Francis, Brett Christopher, Tova Smith, Benjamin Clost, Matt Deslippe, Jane Spence and Taylor Trowbridge. Presented by Theatre by the Bay at Heritage Park, Barrie. Runs to September 4, Monday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Wednesday and Saturday 2 pm. $20, seniors $18, children $15. 705-735-9243. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
There's lots of humour, warmth and a proper touch of sadness in Theatre by the Bay 's As You Like It , which plants the forest of Arden in a lakeside tent in Barrie. Set in the early 1900s, director Daryl Cloran 's production of the Shakespeare classic is a weightier version than CanStage's High Park staging, which goes for light entertainment. Cloran's Arden has a dark as well as sunny side.
The show wouldn't work without an engaging pair of actors playing Rosalind and Orlando, and Jacklyn Francis and Brett Christopher have chemistry from the start. Christopher captures the boyish young lover with total believability, while Francis touches on the rich and varied notes that make up Rosalind, for most of the play disguised as a man and instructing Orlando about love's true meaning.
Their scenes in the second act are some of the show's best, as Francis - mining the work's truths as well as its laughs - swiftly shifts between the infatuated Rosalind and her brusquer male disguise as she teases, teaches and woos Orlando.
There are several other fine performances, among them those by Benjamin Clost as a vaudevillian Chaplinesque Touchstone, Tova Smith as an ebullient Celia who's stronger and more substantial than most who tackle the role, Taylor Trowbridge as a deliciously dirty and earthy Audrey and Jane Spence as the shepherd Phoebe, who's infatuated with the disguised Rosalind.
I didn't get a sense of what Cloran and actor Brian Marler want to do with the melancholic Jaques. As a result, neither the character's railing nor his philosophizing have much weight.
And why play the show in the round?
Not much is gained, and too often during key scenes I was watching performers' backs.
The waterside setting's great, but I wish something could be done about the gunned cars and motorcycles on the road just outside the tent. At times it sounds like Arden's surrounded by a drag race.