The Cameri Theatre production of William Shakespeare’s As You Like It, directed by Udi Ben Moshe, juxtaposes the contemporary digital scene of smartphones, surveillance, and selfies with the pastoral world of nature in the Forest of Arden. Guess where love is to be found…
Displacement in its many forms is the motif in this comedy, at times painful, but for the most part amusing. The rightful ruler has been displaced and exiled to the forest by his evil brother Frederick (Ohad Shahar). The exiled Duke’s daughter, Rosalind (Ola Shur Selektar), is soon banished as well, to be joined by her dear friend Celia (Dana Meinrath), Frederick’s daughter. To ensure their safety, Rosalind takes on the persona of a man, Ganymede, and yes – much hilarity ensues.
The play opens in menacing mode, with the dark suits and shades of Frederick and his men complementing the dark digital towers that rise on the stage, numbers constantly changing and shifting. The set design is brilliant and beautiful, setting the tone and conveying the feel of an entire world at a glance. Rosalind is in a precarious position in this corrupt and hostile court. When Celia tries to cheer her up, encouraging her to show a more genial countenance, she replies, “I show more mirth than I am mistress of.” In a sense, Rosalind is dissembling from the start, within the court of Duke Frederick, she cannot be herself and show her true feelings. The transition to Arden is magical, as the numbers on the towers turn to flowers, the stage is scattered with colorful fallen leaves and spirits roam the forest – masked creatures with antlers, both real and virtual. The use of video here creates a sense of wonder, as the audience is given a glimpse of an enchanted world hidden from the eyes of the characters.
One aspect of Shakespeare’s play is a sendup of the pastoral romance, with its idealized visions of poetic shepherds and the simple life as inherently noble and good. The rustic crew in As You Like It is considerably more down to earth, and all are very likeable and funny in this production. From practical Corin (Shlomi Avraham), to the hilarious Audrey (Maya Landsman). Her blunt and desperately limited world view, combined with a fierce common sense makes for amusing repartee with would-be beau Touchstone. Whether consulting with the sheep regarding romance, or a shy flirtation with William (Eran Sarel) that verges on a series of grunts, she is delightful.
At the other end of the emotional spectrum is the melancholy Jacques (Shmuel Vilojny), who has the best lines in the play – “All the world’s a stage.” Vilojny brings a graceful note to this quirky figure, a perfect foil to the blissful, musical entourage of the exiled Duke (Ohad Shachar in a dual role) who dance their way through the forest clad in flowing white. It is interesting to note that although romantic love is the central theme of the play, the most moving bonds of love and fidelity may be seen in the friendships – that of Rosalind and Celia, and that of Orlando (Udi Rothschild) and his faithful servant Adam (Ezra Dagan). Celia, as Frederick’s daughter, has no reason to leave the court, but chooses to join Rosalind in exile, albeit intent on making sure they take all their jewelry with them. Adam remains faithful to Orlando, banished by his brother Oliver (Asaf Solomon), and when the old man is weakened by the journey, Orlando carries him on his back.
Amid the music and laughter, there are some very tender scenes between the two lovers, Orlando and Rosalind, with the double disguise – Rosalind masquerading as Ganymede posing as Rosalind – contributing to the thrills of love.
As You Like It by William Shakespeare
Translation: Dan Almagor; Director: Udi Ben Moshe; Set: Lily Ben Nachshon; Costumes: Oren Dar; Music: Josef Bardanashvili; Video Art: Yoav Cohen; Lighting: Hanni Vardi; Cast: Ola Shur Selektar – Rosalind, Dana Meinrath – Celia, Udi Rothschild – Orlando, Asaf Solomon – Oliver, Ezra Dagan – Adam, Ohad Shachar – Duke Frederick/the banished Duke, Nadav Assulin – Touchstone, Eran Sarel – Jake/William, Shlomi Avraham – Corin, Yuval Segal – Silvius, Shmuel Vilojny – Jacques, Maya Landsman – Audrey, Neta Plotnik – Phoebe.