Friday, June 26, 2015

You'd Like It Better If They Tried Harder - review by Mark Share

Shakespeare's As You Like It is one of the five plays in summer rotation at Topanga Canyon's Theatricum Botanicum, and the best thing about the experience is the outdoor theater as the setting for the young lovers to run around the forest with the massive oak tree on which Orlando pins his love notes.  The production is a revival of a forgettable one this troupe did years ago, which muddles everything by putting a post-Civil War fa├žade on this Elizabethan romance.  How about setting Breakfast at Tiffany's in immediate post-WWII Germany; that would increase the comedy and romance, right?  Instead of what could be a fast-paced romp without an intermission, the production is dragged out, actually just stops dead, to present performances of "authentic" nineteenth century songs.  It's as excruciating as it sounds.

The other big problem is nepotism and the aging of the company.  It was once considered revolutionary to have a woman in her 30's play Rosalind, who is a beautiful teen (cross-dressing as Ganymede) and witty, eventual match for Orlando.  This production stars the founders' mid-30's daughter Willow Geer (who also starred years ago in this group's prior production), but pretending as a teen rather than making a point of her age, all dotingly directed by her mother Ellen Geer, who laughed throughout the performance when no one else did.  Willow Geer was not even born during the lifetime of the theater's namesake, Will Geer; why in this city of performers is Willow Geer starring again as Rosalind?  It's time for this "non-profit" to turn itself over to new performers and directors outside the hereditary descendants of the founders (it's depressingly rear-guard considering the communist leanings of the founders), and to try a little harder, no matter how forgiving the lovely setting.

The official photo pretty much says it all.

As You Like It at the Theatricum Botanicum through September 26, 2015..  (310) 455-2322

1 comment:

  1. What a nasty, snarky review of a terrific production! (Not to mention the personal attacks lobbed at the cast.) What show did this all-my-taste-is-in-my-mouth reviewer see? The LA Times named it a "Critic's Choice" - and they're right. I've seen it. I strongly urge readers to ignore you, Andrea, and get to Theatricum to see for themselves. They won't be sorry!