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Theater Review

A Weightier 'As You Like It'

April 26, 2001|JANA J. MONJI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Director Joel Swetow's version of Shakespeare's "As You Like It," at Actors Co-op, features strong leads and pleasant musical interludes, but Swetow also imbues his production with a sense of foreboding about what lurks outside the pastoral Forest of Arden.

Nan McNamara makes an intelligent Rosalind, who pairs with Robert Standley's understated Orlando. Marianne Savell is a spunky Celia. Tim Woodward is charming as the wise fool, Touchstone, while Russ Taylor is hilariously pathetic as the lovelorn Silvius. The voices of Fred Mancuso, Dan Roche and Stephen Van Dorn harmonize well, perhaps causing Swetow to linger too long on these musical sequences.

Unlike most versions of this romantic comedy, the future happiness of the couples and the Senior Duke is not assured.

Set designer Yakovetic represents the court in industrial browns and grays and the nearby trees are metal pipes configured like espalier. Yakovetic's Forest of Arden is filled with color and texture. A. Laura Brody's muted costume design for the court similarly blooms with color in the rustic surroundings. Yet the main characters are destined to leave the forest. Near the end, there's a moment when airplanes are heard, casting a somber mood. Swetow seems to be taking Shakespeare's theme of natural order--as represented by fraternal love and the restoration of primogeniture--one step further. The contrivances of civilization threaten the serenity of the world and the happiness of the young lovers.

It's a slight tweaking of what is usually a lightweight romantic tale. Yet while Swetow suggests the coming of war, he also indicates that McNamara's Rosalind is up to the challenge.

* "As You Like It," Actors Co-op, 1760 N. Gower St., Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Ends June 3. $14-$18. (323) 462-8460. Running time:2 hours, 40 minutes.

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