‘As Y’all Like It’ subjects the Bard to some real Southern discomfort

How shall I say this? I thought I had seen the worst Shakespeare of the summer season a couple of we

How shall I say this? I thought I had seen the worst Shakespeare of the summer season a couple of weeks ago. If you are a regular reader, you know the production to which I’m referring.

Anyway, I was wrong. Saratoga Shakespeare Company’s “As Y’all Like It” now holds that top slot. It is simply the stupidest adaptation of Shakespeare’s work that I have ever experienced. As implied, it is “As You Like It” with a country and western twang.

‘As Y’all Like It’

WHERE: Saratoga Shakespeare Company, Congress Park, Saratoga Springs

WHEN: Through July 27

HOW MUCH: Free

MORE INFO: 581-1853

I am not going to mention the actors’ names and I would strongly suggest they refrain from putting this production on their résumés. Under the direction of William Finlay, who is also artistic director for the company, they strut and sort of fret about the stage in their cowboy boots and 10-gallon hats like so many Gabby Hayeses. They look ridiculous and sound ridiculous.

Finlay has instructed them to use Southern-type accents, but that is apparently as far as his instruction went. Where are these people from, anyway? Tennessee? Virginia? Texas? In any event, their accents come and go, which is a blessing because I got awfully tired awfully soon of those fake accents.

More humiliation

This glorious comedy suffers further humiliation at Finlay’s hands by not adopting a point of view. I suppose he thought of the cowboy thing because the play contrasts the stiff and formal life at the court of Duke Frederick who has stolen the title from his brother, Duke Senior, with the simple, rustic life of the Forest of Arden, where the rightful duke has retreated. But Finlay does not carry this theme through. There is absolutely no contrast between the two environments. And the actors have been offered no encouragement to make it happen.

The lines are all there. “Go we to liberty and not to banishment,” one of the characters says as he is ushered from the court (that’s a typical cowboy mantra, isn’t it?). In the forest, people are “free from peril,” another observes, and “Sweet are the uses of adversity,” Shakespeare says of life in the woods.

Actually, there are dangers to face in the forest. Orlando, the lead male, saves his abusive brother from a snake and a lion, but the handkerchief that is supposed to be proof of this heroic deed should be soaked with blood. Instead, it has a few squirts of stage blood on it and does not imply the mighty struggle that went on.

Further, Touchstone the clown, is dressed as a clown, but he is neither satirical (as the lines of the play would imply) nor clownish. And that marvelously melancholy character, Jaques, is not melancholy; he is merely cynical. He delivers his “ages of man” speech, while pouring coffee for his listeners, with much dismissive bluster. It was all so sad — and not in a good way.

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts

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