Alison Robins’ production of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy “As You Like It” stands out among this year’s theatrical events because it applies twenty-first century transgendered politics to Shakespeare’s pastoral romantic comedy. Though it may not be Shakespeare’s most widely known play, “As You Like It” remains a delightful story of a woman taking control over who she loves and how she loves. With Bryn Mawr’s recent acknowledgement of those who do not fit into the gender binary, this production is timely.
Most notably, the play assigned the gender pronoun “they” to the central character, Rosalind, who has traditionally been considered an ordinary crossdressing woman by Shakespearean academia. There are also some minor changes to Shakespeare’s original dialogue when it comes to addressing Rosalind. Though the insertion of “they” and “lover” instead of “she” and “lady” sounds awkward aloud, I’m no purist and fully condone the playwright’s efforts to make Rosalind’s gender ambiguous.
Another interesting choice was to play up Celia’s latent lesbian desire for Rosalind, which was delightfully conveyed in the iconic mock marriage scene. Julia Whittle ’18 does a great job at playing up Celia’s jealousy. She silently wishes death upon Orlando while he moves in on her crush Rosalind / Ganymede. Ironically, Celia is forced to “marry” the pair like a priest during which she expresses attachment to her cousin during the couple’s mock vows.
Presented in Rhoads Dining Hall, the production’s semi-twentieth century approach makes for delightful anachronistic humor. Much of the humor is present in the play itself, the funniest bit being the inclusion of a dead deer as a character worthy of its own paragraph. Bryn Mawr’s rendition strongly implies that it may have played Bambi’s mother in the original Disney film. As for the rest of the cast, their pictures are graced with a humorous blurb about their free time with both their real life gender pronouns as well as those of their character underneath.
The set was a bit too bare-bones, with only two fake trees and lawn chairs there not much to distinguish the court from the forest . There are too few props as well; there is a plush deer but not a lion to attack the heroes. I suppose the front page of the program, with its grassy floor and a wall with a lush forest painted on it, was false advertising.
The costuming is all over the place. Some of the older characters such as Marian Bechtel’s Duke Senior have their hair dyed grey while others like Kristiana Marcopoulos’s Corin and Hannah Chinn’s Adam wear their natural color and painted on mustaches, making them look too young to be cranky elders. While Celia and Rosalind make a very noticeable transition from courtly ladies to foresters, only Celia looks like an actual forester, with a brown garment and a loose shawl, while Rosalind looks like a beatnik with a beret and bobby pins.
The acting was also a mixed bag. Caroline Link ’19 makes a desperate Silvius, but Claire Romaine ’17 as Jaques seems a bit too giddy at the beginning and not enough of a melancholic. In addition, Emma Wells ’17 is miscast as Orlando, sounding too much like a little boy and not enough like a manly romantic hero. Perhaps the actresses for Orlando and Rosalind should have been switched since Rosalind was originally supposed to look boyish, not manly.
(Photo courtesy of BMC Shakespeare Performance Troupe Facebook Page)