Matt Walker and his zany band of Troubies are back with their latest mix of song, dance, laughter, Shakespeare, and adlibs galore. The troupe, which has won L.A. hearts with (among others) Much Adoobie Brothers About Nothing, Hamlet (The Artist Formerly Known As The Prince Of Denmark), and OthE.L.O, now blends As You Like It with cleverly rewritten U2 hits to produce As U2 Like It, a total delight from start to finish. 

The Troubadour Theater Company’s point of departure here is Shakespeare’s classic tale of star-crossed cross-dressing lovers crossing paths in the forest of Arden. Add to that U2 classics like the show’s opening production number “Vertigo”, with its catchy opening bars “Uno dos tres quatorce… Hello Hello” and new lyrics to introduce the cast of characters and you have yet another rollicking Troubies hit. 
Heading the dramatis personae is hunky Matt Merchant, a macho Orlando reduced to a stuttering ninny in front of Rosalind (Breanna Pine). (“Rosalind, she’s so cute! She makes me want to punch a baby!”)  While Rosalind transforms herself into Ganymede to the strains of “Where The Streets Have No Name,” Katie Nunez (Celia) becomes “no longer Celia but Selena,” with a Mexican red, white and green skirt, Spanish accent to match, and a bag of chicharones to snack on. (Political correctness? Fageddaboudit!)  Oliver (Rick Batalla) falls for Serena and serenades her with “With Or Without You,” which becomes “With Or Without Shoes” when the statuesque Selena takes off her pumps to minimize their height difference. When Oliver reaches the part about, “And you give yourself away,” he quips: “Can we talk about the possibility of you many not giving yourself away … so much?” Meanwhile, the slapstick duo of Phebe (Audrey Siegel) and Silvius (Matthew Morgan) alternate pratfalls and toe -licking all the while Matt Walker as Touchstone honks his horn as punctuation because “it makes everything funnier!” 
The jokes come fast and furious in a Troubie show. Here are just a few: 
•Dennis: He is here at the door and importunes access to you. 
Oliver: (Mimicking the stilted language) “He is here at the door and importunes access to you?” 
Dennis: Yes, it’s iambic pentameter. 

•Orlando: I’m never using mapquest again. 
Dennis: You said to look where the streets have no name. 

•When a character rhymes John Clese, Fabreze, and Chinese, he’s told “I have two words for you. UCLA Extension.”

•“Here’s one ducket. Go to the 99 Pence Store.” 

•Phebe sings “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and, thrusting her hand into Ganymede’s trousers, still can’t find what she’s looking for, even though Ganymede/Rosalind has strategically stuffed a huge rolled up sock into her trousers to complete the female-to-male illusion
“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” is one of a dozen or so U2 hits cleverly inserted into Shakespeare’s convoluted (though simplified here) plot. There’s also “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” which becomes “Wednesday Bloody Wednesday” for the wrestling match between Orlando and 9-foot-tall Charles (Dan Waskom), a bout which includes tittie twisters to Matt Merchant’s manly chest. Orlando sings “In The Name Of Love” to Rosalind before heading off to the forest of Arden to the strains of “I Will Follow.” “Desire” serves as an Act 1 Finale recap of what’s happened up to this point, and the second act concludes with “One” (“Love is a temple”) followed by “It’s A Beautiful Day,” the evening’s grand finale featuring an appearance by none other than Jesus Christ Superstar in the flesh. 
About halfway through the performance, Celia/Selena remarks, quite cannily, “These songs all sound the same” leading to a reprise of 6 U2 songs sung first in succession and then in unison and … yes, indeed they all sound the same! 
Oliver’s explanation?  “It’s just a coincidence.”
Speaking of Oliver, Batalla has a field day with the shepherd’s oversize staff, which looks conveniently like a question mark right side up, and a Spanish ¿ when held upside down, and which leads to a plethora of words plays around “staff” and “staph.”
What would a Troubie show be without adlibs, as when LA Weekly’s Steven Leigh Morris arrived late to Wednesday’s performance to Touchstone/Walker’s barbed greeting, which Walker followed with an “improvising already” pat on his own back.  Batalla, tripping over a box, worried that “my hair almost fell off.” And those two are just for starters. 

Still, to quote from Shakespeare himself, “The play’s the thing,” and the Troubie cast isn’t below playing it straight from time to time … and doing so in a way that gives the Bard all due respect. Never is this more true than when Beth Kennedy, hidden behind mime-ready white clown makeup as uberserious Jaques, delivers the famous “All the world’s a stage” soliloquy in an absolutely brilliant performance about the seven ages of man which wouldn’t be out of place at the Old Globe.

The As U2 Like It cast couldn’t be better. In addition to Batalla, Kennedy, Merchant, Morgan, Nunez, Pine, Siegel, Walker and Waskom, the production also features Travis Clark, Mike Sulprizio, and Kimberly Wood, all of whom are outstanding comedic actors, first-rate vocalists, adept dancers (the infectious choreography the creation of Christine Lakin).

Sherry Santillano’s set does its job, especially when combined with Nick McCord’s rainbow-colored psychedelic lighting. Sharon McGunigle’s costumes are highly imaginative treats, Robert Arturo Ramirez’s sound design mixes band and vocals perfectly, and Eric Heinly does great work as musical director/drummer, joined by Thomas Dryaton on bass, Mitchell Sigman on keyboards, and Pocket Honore on guitar.

Artistic Director Walker has directed As U2 Like It with the expertise that comes from twelve years heading the Troubies.  Walker knows the formula that works and has honed it to perfection.  With its sensational cast, the rocking hits of U2, and a tip of the hat to William Shakespeare for the original on which it is based, As U2 Like It is certain to entertain sold-out houses throughout its 8-week run at the Falcon.

Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank.

–Steven Stanley
August 27, 2008
Photos: Cheryl Games

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