Back in my 20s, when I was so much older and wiser than I am now, Hamlet, with its moody, brooding hero and his dark death-obsessed soliloquies, was my favorite Shakespearean drama. But now that I’m midway through my 30s and that much closer to Hamlet’s “undiscovered country,” As You Like It is my fave–not because the play denies “the misfortune our flesh is heir to” but because it transcends it, revealing as only a comedy can that not every bad turn ends badly. In the right hands, misfortune can be an opportunity, disguise a path to self-discovery, and exile the first step home. This is especially true when As You Like It is performed by a cast as lighthearted, full-throated, clear-voiced, and comfortable with Shakespeare’s word-drunk wit as the one performing in this year’s edition of Shakespeare on the Green. All that is best about this play comes to the fore in this simple production, performed in a bare-bones set on the beautiful front lawn at Barat College: Celia and Rosalind’s dear friendship, Rosalind and Orlando’s sweet, cross-dressed romance, Jaques’ marvelous melancholy meditations. Even the parts that puffed-up actors usually spoil, such as the often tedious and overplayed Touchstone, are pulled off with rare grace, charm, and subtlety. And it’s free, if you don’t count gas and the tolls. Barat College, front lawn, 700 E. Westleigh, Lake Forest, 708-295-2620. Through July 30: Fridays-Sundays, 8 PM (preceded by music and food service at 6 PM).
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Roger Lewin-Jennifer Girard Studio.