Theatre review: Long Beach Shakespeare Co.’s “As You Like It”

From+left%3A+Wyatt+Najarian+%28Silvius%29+and+Ali+Ryan+%28Phebe%29in+Long+Beach+Shakespeare+Company%E2%80%99s+%0A%E2%80%9CAs+You+Like+It%2C%E2%80%9D+streaming+through+Oct.+4.

Photos by Luis Aranda

From left: Wyatt Najarian (Silvius) and Ali Ryan (Phebe)in Long Beach Shakespeare Company’s “As You Like It,” streaming through Oct. 4.

The Long Beach Shakespeare Company (LBSC) describes its streaming production of Williams Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” as a “rom-com,” the modern term for romantic comedy, and that’s how they play it– like an extended episode of Friends. There’s even a character named Phebe! You can enjoy this very animated, light-hearted escapade through Oct. 4 as a way to cap off summer fun.

As directed by LBSC Artistic Director Brando Cutts, the story begins with a near-shirtless Orlando (Nick Napoli) doing pushups, ranting angrily about his brothers and violently wrestling (though we’re spared most of the gruesomeness by a cardboard crowd that pops up).

But soon after Orlando meets Rosalind and she gives him her necklace, the play turns more female-centric, with Rosalind (Erin Manker) dressing like a man, boldly speaking her mind and testing Orlando’s declarations of love for her.

Rosalind is the niece of a duke and duchess (Andrea Stradling) who exiled her parents (the former duke and his duchess, played by Lecia Papadopoulos) to the Forest of Arden, but kept Rosalind around to keep their daughter Celia (Natasha Renae Potts) company.

Celia and Rosalind have become inseparable, so when Rosalind also gets banished by the duchess, Celia goes with her, taking the court clown Touchstone (Ken Knight) along for the ride.

The girls also change their names and Rosalind pretends to be a man for the pair’s safety.

Rosalind’s new manly outfit suits her well in the forest, where she finds love poems to her that Orlando (now also banished) has tacked up on every tree. Rosalind is able to freely question him on his motives, seeming to him like a mere “youth.”

From left: Nick Napoli (Orlando) and Erin Manker (Rosalind) in Long Beach Shakespeare
Company’s “As You Like It,” streaming through Oct. 4. (Photos by Luis Aranda)

However– and this is also why it’s a rom-com– Rosalind catches the eye of shepherdess Phebe (Ali Ryan), who is pursued by the shepherd Silvius (Wyatt Najarian). In the meantime, Orlando’s brother Oliver (Mikael Mattsson) shows up and takes a liking to Celia.

In between, we are treated to enchanting songs (Garret Martinez sings sweetly), witty discussions on the differences between forest and courtly life, and a gravely philosophic soliloquy by Jonah Goger about the seven ages of man (“All the world’s a stage…”).

The pacing is brisk and the actor’s bring enthusiasm to their roles, though the volume may need to be turned up to hear some of them.

Music by Edmund Velasco switches to plucky banjo when we move from the court to the forest.

And the set (designed by Nicole Braucher) of the Helen Borgers Theatre, where the production was filmed, is painted light green with trees and features a string of lights for stars and spotlight for a moon.

Costumes, especially the women’s Elizabethan dresses, are fittingly designed by Dana Leach.

Watch for Rosalind’s final outfit that combines her masculine attire with a newly emboldened feminine sensibility.

All’s well that ends well, as per another Shakespeare play, but it’s the rollicking way we get there that makes it “as you like.” Moreover, the intermission features LBSC’s mascot, Hamlet the pig, and the exuberant maypole dance toward the end– with twisting, colorful ribbons– is an apt image of the play’s amusing intricacies.

LBSC’s “As You Like It” is available for streaming for a $35 ticket per household through Oct. 4 and includes a downloadable program PDF. Visit lbshakespeare.org or call (562) 997-1494 for a ticket and information.