Tuesday, August 3, 2010

This Weekend at American Players Theatre

I am coated in mosquito bites. (Hypochondriac that I am, I am certain I have West Nile virus.) I am worn out from the seven-hour drive to Spring Green, Wisconsin -- which, as far as my AT&T signal is concerned, is the absolute middle of nowhere. And, after spending a weekend in a town with only two decent restaurants, I am craving a good meal.

Yet, when choosing Midwestern Shakespeare festivals for my summer schedule, the American Players Theatre is at the top of my list. This is among the best theaters in the nation, featuring superb actors in intelligent productions. And the setting, an outdoor theater on a wooded hilltop, is stellar. (Get it? Stellar? Because of the stars? Oh, never mind.)

We saw three APT productions this weekend, including Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot and Shakespeare's As You Like It and All's Well that Ends Well.

All's Well was solidly done, with good acting, an engaging setting and a very funny Parolles. This production emphasizes the violence of the Italian wars, which lends some credence to Bertram's maturation -- although, as one of Shakespeare's problem plays, All's Well will always have a somewhat ambiguous resolution.

But what we really need to talk about is As You Like It, which seems to be the play of the moment. This is the fourth production I've seen within a year, with more on the way. It's not my favorite play, and I feared I would be bored. Not to worry: This production is the best I have ever seen, a melancholy and touching interpretation set in the Great Depression. I am madly in love with Matt Schwader, who plays Orlando, and Hillary Clemens is the most natural, likable Rosalind I have seen. James Ridge's Jaques gave me a new, deeper understanding of this complex character, and David Daniel offers a hilarious, slapstick Touchstone -- the funniest I've ever seen.

I could go on. The play is superb. It's worth a special trip -- or even two. Go right now. Pack bug spray.

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