Cast members in Theatricum Botanicum’s 3:30 p.m. matinee on Saturday, August 15, 2015 deserve four stars just for their fortitude surviving the 100-plus degree weather at the outdoor amphitheater wearing post-Civil War garb! But there are many more reasons why this decidedly likeable production deserves acclaim. On the whole Director Ellen Geer’s decision to set the story of two brothers, one estranged by envy and the other alienated by ambition, after the Civil War works quite well and adds depth to Shakespeare’s comedy.
Willow Geer stars as Rosalind whose wit and resourcefulness drive the play. She is forced to flee camp when her Uncle Frederick (Thad Geer), who has usurped his brother’s position as a general in the Union army, threatens to have her killed. Disguising herself as a man, she and her beloved cousin Celia (Elizabeth Tobias) depart on their brave escape. They encounter Touchstone (Gerald C. Rivers in a wonderful and funny performance) who joins them as they venture to the rebel camp.
Later Rosalind’s persona as Ganymede aids her in testing the devotion of her noble admirer, Orlando (very funny stand out turn for Colin Simon), who is also on the run from his hostile older brother (Frank Wiedner). Earnestine Phillips as Aida, Orlando’s faithful servant and traveling companion is delightful.
At this matinee the second act really cooked (no pun intended) and the players adeptly brought to life some of the Bard’s most clever verse.
Americana music and song, such as “Aura Lee” and “Beautiful Dreamer” are woven throughout the play accompanied by banjo, guitar and mandolin.
Costume designer Amy Mazzaferro deserves a big round of applause (loved the hoop skirt and the authentic military)!
Traditionally Theatricum Botanicum presents satisfying, clearly understandable Shakespeare and “As You Like It” is no exception. All the remaining performances are matinees and there are no bad seats in the house, so audience members can always find some shade on any hot summer afternoon.
“As You Like It” continues to perform in repertory with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird,” “August Osage County” and “Green Grown the Lilacs” through September 26. Ticket prices range from $39.50 (lower tier) to $10 for children (7-12). Children 6 and under are free. . For a complete schedule of performances and to purchase tickets, call 310–455-3723 or visit www.theatricum.com.
Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 North Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Topanga, midway between Malibu and the San Fernando Valley.