It was 100 degrees on opening night. Almost unbearably hot. People were fanning themselves with anything they could get their hands on, mopping their brows with sweat-rags, and eventually, rocking armpit stains with no shame. We were all in the same boat.
Of course, having a glass or two of wine wasn’t helping anyone stay cool. But in the Delacorte—a place that feels so very far from, and yet, so very integral to the city of New York—with all its open air and fireflies and starlight, a glass of wine seems essential to the summer theater experience. Plus, to be totally blunt, As You Like It—a play in which a zillion things happen without any kind of genuine or discernible motivation—kind of requires a glass of wine or two.
Don’t let that scare you off, though. There are some real pleasures in director Daniel Sullivan’s production of As You Like It, even if 90% of the action seems very… random (honestly, a mountain lion that we never see is a major second act plot point). Like Lily Rabe’s fiery Rosalind. And David Furr’s handsome, sensitive, piercing-eyed Orlando.
Sure, they’re costumed as if someone hates them. Furr’s pants look—from behind, from the side—like he’s wearing a very full diaper that needs changing. (Ew.) And Rabe’s dresses clearly came straight from the American Girl Store in Rockefeller Center, ripped out of the Mommy & Me Dress Like Felicity section.
But none of that matters when they speak. Both Rabe and Furr have the perfect voices for Shakespeare: resonant and sure, with a million shades of emotion available to them at any given moment. And their timing and chemistry together are wonderful. Furr’s Orlando provides the ideal center of gravity for the maelstrom of witticism and emotional flip-flopping that is Rabe’s Rosalind.
But enough about those two. Because there are several other reasons to enjoy As You Like It. Like Oliver Platt, whose fool Touchstone, is completely hilarious without overacting, and Stephen Spinella’s melancholy Jaques—an Eeyore-esque blend of totally miserable and inadvertently funny. As Audrey and Silvius, a goatherd/Touchstone’s main squeeze and a daffy, devoted young shepherd, respectively, Donna Lynne Champlin and Will Rogers are also highlights.
Another highlight? Composer Steve Martin’s music—yes, that Steve Martin, star of Father of the Bride. Even before the show begins Martin’s twangy, bluegrass fare is setting the scene for a 19th Century Americana Forest of Arden. At first it feels a bit like being in Frontier Land at Disney World, waiting your turn to hop on Splash Mountain, but as the show carries on, the music becomes something of a binding agent, holding all the disparate parts of Shakespeare’s play together.
So yeah, you might want to go on a night that’s not 100 degrees. And you’ll probably want a glass of wine, or two, or four. But for the cost of a few hours of your life and a few adult beverages, you’re not likely to find any better entertainment around. Or any more quintessentially New York experience. Armpit stains and all.
Credit: Joan Marcus