Mike Fischer at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel saw 10 shows and has ranked them, less as a reductive prescription than as an invitation to conversation.
1) Macbeth: “one’s deepest and darkest thoughts emerge into what little light there ever is; watching this world unfold, one feels an unsettling, primeval connection to characters who are both a millennium old (this production is set in eleventh-century Scotland) and a reflection of ourselves and our neighbors.”
2) All My Sons: “…marvel anew at how much his play still has to say to us and the way we live now…”
3) A Chorus Line: from the tryout at the top of the show to the symbolic, outward facing circle the ensemble creates near journey’s end, we’re reminded that “love’s what we’ll remember.”
4) Bunny: ” I’m not pulling punches when predicting a rousing success for this darkly funny and also wrenching account of a woman (beautifully played by Maev Beaty) in her late thirties, looking back on a lonely life in which her need to be needed results in numerous sexual relationships.”
Personally, I think As You Like It is one of Shakespeare’s less inspired comedies, as most of its plot is actually borrowed from Thomas Lodge’s prose romance Rosalynde. However, the strong cast, interactive aspects, and interesting setting breathe new life into what could have otherwise been a very dull play….Infusing Newfoundland participatory culture with Shakespeare is an incredibly imaginative decision, and setting the play in the ’80s adds that extra element of fun with big hair, crazy costumes and all those shoulder pads.
Chops must go to actors who embrace a direction that subverts the text as a whole, and Petrina Bromley (Rosalind) and Trish Lindstrom (Celia) shine in this production. They show the girls as true friends, almost turning the story into a two-hander buddy play. Ms. Bromley makes the most convincing Ganymede, giving the character a real bay-boy vibe, while Ms. Lindstrom’s Celia never really loses her taffety ways to hilarious effect.
Petrina Bromley, a good actress who ought to know better, portrays Rosalind — or, if you like, Ganymede, which is the name she adopts for her disguise — with a jaunty disregard for Shakespeare’s text. The role, as J.C. Trewin once pointed out, is one of the great testing grounds for an actress but you wouldn’t know it from Bromley’s performance, which is so resolutely “down-home” that it remains largely inattentive to Rosalind’s complexities or to the melody and meaning of the verse. Does this Rosalind qualify as a woman who “by
heavenly synod was devised?” Not this summer at Stratford. Not by a long shot…Yet on opening night there was also clear evidence that a lot of playgoers were having an uproariously fine time at a show that seemed more Newfoundland hootenanny than Shakespeare.
Newfoundland permeates every aspect of this production, making it an ethnographic experience of sorts…at intermission I heard one east-coast attendee raving about how much it meant to her to hear “an accent that you don’t normally associate with Shakespeare” being spoken on the Festival stage.
In a piece reviewing both Shakespeares Cushman notes: It’s a bad sign in a highly verbal comedy when none of the laughs come from the lines. The shame of it is that when Keiley does get down to directing a scene, she can do it very well….Brigit Wilson is touching when reunited with her daughter, but we lose the rivalry of the ducal brothers, and – most damagingly – the moment when the usurping Duke Frederick (whom Scott Wentworth amusingly plays as Donald Trump) turns on the similarly fratricidal Oliver with “more villain thou.” It’s a moment of either breathtaking hypocrisy or guilty displacement which has been known to turn the whole play around.
I am grateful for Scott Wentworth as the angry Duke, Seana McKenna as the melancholy, wry Jaques, and Trish Lindström as the perky, impish Celia. They have the poetry, nuance and infinite variety of Shakespeare in their bones and no amount of distracting business from the director can hide it.
Keiley finds her resonances in a specifically Newfoundland context. She’s thinking about the rediscovery and reclamation of the culture of the province’s far-flung communities and outports in the 1980s, after decades of resettlement to bigger towns. Her production treats As You Like It as “an argument to recognize the good of rural living.” When it kicks off properly, you warm quickly to Rosalind (Petrina Bromley, a genuine Newfoundlander) and Celia (Trish Lindstrom).
For the first time in your experience, the two central characters feel like genuine cousins with a real female friendship….[from] the first female director to be entrusted with a Shakespeare in the Festival Theatre since 2008.
Hosted in late night talk show style by Hymen (Robin Hutton being the hostess with mostest), the production easily found its Newfie roots in the music, but was MIA in the actual play—two worlds (Newfoundland/Shakespeare’s England) trying to coexist but never really understanding each other. As metaphor it’s superb, as theatre it’s a dud.
This show knows exactly what it is, and the company appears to have a riot doing it. It is a great night out for audience members who are looking to brush up on their Shakespeare, roll up their sleeves and get involved, and not take things too seriously while doing it. There is also the added bonus of incredible live music performed by on-stage musicians Graham Hargrove, Keelan Purchase, Dan Stacey, and Kyle Wayworth.
Under Keiley’s direction, the play is filled with frivolity, laughter and good music – almost everything a party-goer wants…It’s guaranteed to make Shakespeare more palatable, perhaps even more accessible, to those who struggle to understand the prose and who are less likely to buy a ticket to a traditional staging of the play. But purists might rightly question whether the East Coast party theme complements the play or overshadows it. Indeed, at times it seems as if there are two stories competing on the stage rather than a seamless intertwining of the play into a new time period.
As it works in theory, it won’t work for everyone in practice. Keiley’s spin on the story lays on the cheese with lots of double entendre wordplay (“Hold onto my dingy”), physical gags (a swift smooch from Newfie Orlando to French LeBeau in a moment of missed cultural translation), and the most audience interaction Stratford-goers are likely to come across in years — injected into the play in the spirit of Newfoundland’s sense of humour and inclusive artistic attitude.
It’s understandable that Keiley would want to draw on her Newfoundland background but as her statement and the resulting show make obvious, the production is all about what a Newfie kitchen-party is like and not what Shakespeare’s play is about since she does, in fact, leave it unexamined – rather the opposite of what you would expect a director to do with a play.