“As You Like It,” as performed at the Utah Shakespearean Festival, is the sort of comedy that is more jolly than funny. You certainly leave it feeling happy, but the actual laugh-out-loud laughs are relatively few.
It’s a shame, in a way. The script is pure farce — it has cross-dressing and mistaken identities; it would surely have slamming doors if it didn’t take place in a forest — and is meant to be uproariously funny.
But director Henry Woronicz has taken a different tack, and let’s make the best of it. His Rosalind is played by Sara Kathryn Bakker, and she is to be loved. Beautiful — she looks like Cate Blanchett — and energetically funny, she is equally fun to watch when squealing over her love for Orlando as when she is disguised as a man and talking to him face-to-face.
One thing she comes up short on, however, is Rosalind’s delight at pretending to be a man. Not for a moment do you believe she’s male; Orlando has got to be blind and deaf not to realize it. As a result, their scenes together do not evoke the battle-of-the-sexes sparks they ought to.
Playing Rosalind’s cousin and best friend Celia is Saren Nofs-Snyder. She and Bakker are a gem of a comic duo, and her reactions to Rosalind’s lovesickness are priceless. (Here, Celia is the farce character who watches her friend’s absurd behavior with increasingly arched eyebrows.)
Among the men, we have the capable James Knight as Orlando, the comedically gifted Michael David Edwards as Touchstone the clown, and Jason Michael Spelbring as the youthful and handsome shepherd Silvius, in love with a milkmaid.
The cast is strong and the source material is splendid. Yet the production has long stretches of nothing funny, intermingled with bursts of boisterous mirth. The overall impact is that of being amused without the discomfort of your sides having been split. It is not how I prefer to see “As You Like It,” but perhaps it is exactly as YOU like it.