The Antaeus Company transports lovers, philosophers, fools, royals, and audiences into the woods as Antaeus likes it, that is to say with two equally terrific casts bringing William Shakespeare’s As You Like It to magical, mystical, mesmerizing life.

Production helmer Rob Clare eschews “director’s concepts” (there’s no situating As You Like It in Outer Space or Old West or Traveling Circus) while paying respectful if not overly reverent attention to words that have kept Shakespeare aficionados entertained for more than four-hundred years.

Scenic designer François Pierre-Couture’s arched-pillared set has a Moorish look as do A. Jeffrey Schoenberg’s floor-length brocaded robes and stoles, but once Rosalind and Orlando and Celia have been banished to the Forest Of Arden, we find ourselves pretty much as our imaginations like it.

Bits of directorial fancy do spice up the evening. Characters occasionally interact more directly with the audience than you might have seen before, and when Touchstone interviews William to talk-show-style canned applause, rarely has a zucchini served more functions than it does in the comedic host’s hand.

As is Antaeus Company custom, a partner-cast ensemble has rehearsed as one, paired actors collaborating to create a single character while performing opposite multiple scene partners, then been split into two equally fabulous casts (the “Acorns” and the “Peascods) alternating on Saturdays and Sundays and mashed-up as a seemingly endless variety of “Atomies” on Thursdays and Fridays.

Julia Davis and Sally Hughes anchor the production as a pair of equally lovely, equally regal, equally feminine-turned-boyishly-spunky Rosalind-Ganymedes opposite Matthew Gallenstein’s boy-next-door Orlando and Daisuke Tsuji’s angry-young-man incarnation of the same, sparks igniting palpably regardless of the pairing, and both Desirée Mee Jung and Abigail Marks reveal considerable depth of pain alongside pithy ripostes as best-gal-pal Celia.

Wayne T. Carr makes Oliver almost sympathetic even at first meeting while Daniel Dorr seethes with anger, resentment, and calculation from the get-to; the melancholy Jacques is brought to powerful life by James Sutorius and Tony Amendola, the former underplaying “All the world’s a stage…” to you-could-hear-a-pin-drop effect, the latter adding dramatic punch to the seven ages of man, from mewling, puking infant to second childishness; and J.D. Cullum’s quirky, impish Touchstone and Adam J. Smith’s droll, lower-key incarnation find distinct ways to score laughs as one of Shakespeare’s best-loved fools.

Steve Hofvendahls’s Corin delights in his own ignorance while Alberto Isaac plays up the elderly shepherd’s impish ways; Brian Abraham’s Duke Frederick has a bit of Aladdin’s Iago in him contrasted with John DeMita’s suaver villain; and Brian K. Addison enhances both casts as a warm and welcoming Duke Senior.

Paul Culos and Adam Meyer may look nothing alike but both are lovestruck charmers opposite a delectable Anna Lamadrid’s squawky-voiced odd bird of a Phoebe and classic comedienne Erin Pineda’s own captivating shepherdess, each of whom makes Phoebe’s coup de foudre deliciously her own

Petite Janellen Steininger alternates with statuesque Todd Waring as Le Beau and Sir Oliver Martext, Steininger scoring bonus laughs as a drunken Granny Clampett-in-male drag curate.

And speaking of TV sitcom icons, Elyse Mirto’s Audrey is Ellie Mae Clampett to Karen Malina White’s Florence Johnston, and both are country girl scrumdiddlyumptious.

Mitchell Edmonds and Tim Halligan give elderly retainer Adam a touching blend of warmth and gravitas; John Bobek and Ian Littleworth bring both vocal and guitar chops to the folk-singing Amiens, each composing his own mid-show melody to lyrics by The Bard, and double as Dennis; and Andy Stokan and Sedale Threatt, Jr. excel in their eleventh-hour appearances as Jacques de Boys (and as a character known simply as Lord).

Last but not least, Ben Atkinson and Luis Kelly-Duarte’s Charles fake-wrestle with the best of WWE in 1920s bathing beauty unitards (kudos to fight choreographer Bo Foxworth) and play straight man to Touchstone’s zucchini-wielding Touchstone as William.

Leigh Allen transforms palace to forest with her stunning lighting design, Schoenberg’s eclectic blend of costumes take fashionable flight in the woods, Anna Allyn Kolesnikoff provides an imaginative array of props, Orlando de la Paz scenic paints to perfection, and sound designer Peter Bayne underscores scene changes with original music equal parts jaunty and epic and mysterious and dramatic and pulsating.

Kristin Weber is stage manager and Jessica Osorio is assistant stage manager. Rachel Berney Needleman and Victoria Pearlman are assistant directors. Meyer is production manager and Rene Parras Jr. is assistant technical director. Elizabeth Swain is text coach.

Previous productions of King Lear, Macbeth, and Henry IV, Part One have proven The Antaeus Company’s mettle with Shakespeare in tragic/historic mode. As You Like It shows off L.A.’s Classical Theatre Ensemble’s comedic gifts to equally splendid effect.

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Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center, 110 East Broadway, Glendale.

–Steven Stanley
July 27 and 28, 2017
Photos: Daniel G. Lam Photography


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