Photo by Dan Norman, courtesy of Guthrie Theater
On a slushy February night with evening settling over Minneapolis, Guthrie attendees rushed down the melted mess of snow on the street to move their parked cars before plows came thundering down after a sign on the theater doors warned of the snow emergency and that the show ran into the night plow’s clock. As an attendee, the start of the night was a hectic drama.
The show that followed was a drama of its own kind.
On a simplistic yet complex stage, “As You Like It” started with thumping pop music that told everyone unequivocally this Shakespearean classic was getting a modern spin, but with all the same dialogue.
The show is one of William Shakespeare’s comedies known for the gender-bending narrative of a disguised princess, Rosalind, hiding in the forest as Ganymede when she realizes her crush, Orlando, is hiding in the same Arden Woods as she.
In the first few scenes, the modern setting did not sit right. The characters, using the classic dialogue in hot pink athletic wear, felt wrong and over the top. However, Rosalind and Orlando’s meeting, when suddenly modern inflection was laid over Shakespearean lines was a striking juxtaposition that brought laughter.
Under Lavina Jadhwani’s directorship, the Guthrie’s adaptation makes the comedy new, with humor coming from modern familiarity appearing within classic lines and stage choreography that uses every moment for an added laugh.
Rosalind, played by Meghan Kreidler, performed the double role stunningly with a striking craze throughout the show, and a masterful memory of one of the largest female parts in a Shakespeare play.
However artful the comedic additions, there were some choices that detracted from the overall show.
Going in blind, the first music number felt charming and fitting as some forest dwellers gathered around a picnic table to sing a jaunt, but by the third music number, I was confused. However, “As You Like It”is the most musical of Shakespeare’s body of work. Despite its canonical justification, the singing detracted from the performance of the actors embodying these varied characters. It felt like an interruption— albeit a well-performed one with stunning vocals. I wanted to just see the story and its players.
Further lingering threads from the original text were not enjoyable in the modern adaptation, like Jacques, a melancholy traveler in the woods whose lines include the famous “All The World’s a Stage” speech, but who undergoes no growth through the plot and acts more as an interruption to the comedic love stories at the center.
However, the core stories that lead to four weddings at the close of the show are comically and delightfully done in this Guthrie performance that will please any Shakespeare fan.
“As You Like It” is running at the Guthrie Theater on the Wurtele Thrust Stage until Mar. 17