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THEATER REVIEW : Shakespeare Production Made for the Masses : Moorpark company's 'As You Like It' is a crowd pleaser, with many of the best characters in minor roles.


It's said that "As You Like It" was the play that opened the Globe Playhouse in 1599. Certainly (as its somewhat cynical title betrays) it was written to be a crowd pleaser, and Shakespeare's script includes several of his most popular devices, including mistaken identity, masquerading as a member of the opposite sex and even a bit of magic.

The characters include a dashing hero, several cleverly drawn country bumpkins, a wise jester, two nasty villains who get their comeuppance by the end, and two of Shakespeare's most appealing women. As if all that wouldn't guarantee standing-room-only performances at the Globe, "As You Like It" includes the "All the world's a stage" speech and ends with a quadruple wedding.

It shouldn't have any trouble filling seats at the California Shakespeare Company's storefront theater in Moorpark, where director William H. Fisher's production continues to play weekends through Oct 17. If you're looking for a first Shakespeare play to see, this may well be the one.

Though Duke Senior and Duke Frederick are estranged--Frederick having exiled his elder brother to the woods to live "like Robin Hood"--their daughters, Celia and Rosalind, live together like sisters in nasty Frederick's court.

Earlier, Shakespeare has introduced two brothers, including the play's hero, Orlando, who is treated as a servant by his jealous elder brother, Oliver.

The brothers and cousins meet at a wrestling match, set up by Oliver, in hopes that Orlando will be killed by the fighter Charles. Rosalind develops a crush on Orlando, which displeases Frederick. Orlando hides in the Forest of Arden to escape Frederick, who charges Oliver with hunting him down. In the meantime, Rosalind and Celia and their jester, Touchstone, begin to search the forest for Duke Senior.

Then it begins to get complicated.

Tanya Turan and Toni Beery portray the clever Celia and Rosalind; while Rosalind is generally thought of as the play's leading character, director Fisher and Turan give Celia as close to equal weight as Shakespeare allows: they're a charming and bright pair, still closer to "girls" than "women," but well on their way.

Kelly Vincent and Benjamin Hess play Oliver and Orlando; John Henry Whitaker and Douglas Gabrielle are Dukes Frederick and Senior, respectively. Of these men, the more sympathetic characters are the ones best-drawn and played, but Shakespeare quickly loses interest in these villains, and--perhaps the play's weak point--both of them convert to nice guys offstage, with Frederick disappearing altogether.

Many of the play's best characters are in minor roles, here including Henry Lide as both a foppish nobleman and a shepherd who's not as dense as he first appears; Kelly Foran as a shepherd who is even denser than he first appears; and--on opening weekend--Shannon Warrick as a goofy, uncultured and enthusiastic country girl who makes Ado Annie (from "Oklahoma!") look sophisticated by comparison. This weekend, Audrey will be played by Jan Glasband, Warrick returns on Sept. 24-26, Glasband is back on Oct. 1-3, and Brenda Kenworthy takes over for the final two weekends. Each interpretation promises to be quite different from the others.

Among the other fine characterizations are Greg Ungar's as Touchstone, and Vincent Wares as Jaques, one of Duke Senior's attendants, and Mark Tortorici as wrestler Charles and another country bumpkin.


"As You Like It" continues through Oct. 17 at the California Shakespeare Company Theater, 6685 Princeton Ave. (the Varsity Plaza shopping center), Moorpark. Performances are Friday and Saturday nights at 8, and Sunday afternoons at 3. Tickets are $12, $10 seniors and students. Reservations are preferable as the theater is small, but some tickets may be available at the door immediately prior to performances. For reservations or further information, call 498-3354.

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