The Bridge Project’s world premiere of “As You Like It” opened at BAM January 12. Early performances are proving again that British and American actors can collaborate to produce top-notch theater.
BAM and (London-based) The Old Vic and Neal Street Productions are producing the play, directed by Sam Mendes. It opens The Bridge Project’s second season.
The play tells the story of two feuding brothers, Duke Frederick and Duke Senior, whose fight for power throws a kingdom into turmoil.
After usurping the throne from his elder brother, Duke Frederick banishes Duke Senior into exile in the Forest of Arden. After a young champion wrestler named Orlando (Christian Camargo) wins the attention of Duke Frederick’s daughter, Rosalind (Juliet Rylance), the angry duke gives her the boot as well. An outcast Orlando also runs away, and unbeknownst to each other the lovers settle in the Forest of Arden.
Suddenly the forest is alive with wanderers, jokers and peasant folk—all living beneath the watchful eye of the patriarchal, exiled Duke Senior. And this being Shakespeare, of course, everyone falls in love with everyone else.
The play unwinds at its own sweet rhythm, brought along by a strong cast performance and an impressive, understated set design. The Forest of Arden is by turns a foreboding winter wasteland and a lovers’ retreat of warm proportions.
The early, tragic scenes—Orlando’s row with his brother, his dramatic wrestling victory and Rosalind’s banishment—give way to a series of troubled romances, each more comic than the next, that unfold in a forest where Rosalind (disguised as the manly shepherd Ganymede) plays matchmaker in a quest to reunite with Orlando, her own true love.
Staged at BAM’s charming Harvey Theater, “As You Like It” marks the start of another exciting theater season in Brooklyn. (Daniel Bush)
BAM Harvey Theater | Jan 12-March 13 | Tickets $20-95 | www.bam.org