La Jolla Playhouse Stages Shakespeare Like it is 2022

In Association with Diversionary Theatre, the Production of As You Like It is a Wonderfully Reconceptualized Piece with Trans, Non-Binary and Queer Performers. 

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

Members of the cast of La Jolla Playhouse’s production of AS YOU LIKE IT, by William Shakespeare,
co-directed by Christopher Ashley and Will Davis, produced in association with Diversionary Theatre;
photo by Rich Soublet II.

What a wonderful take this is of the rom-com that started it all. The vision of this reimagined As you Like It co-directed by Christopher Ashley and Will Davis is creative and just make-you-feel-good-happy. The cast, most of them in their La Jolla Playhouse debut is also an accomplishment to celebrate. I am all for supporting local talent and nourishing it. These performers come from everywhere and that is just exciting.

Alrighty, let us get to the play: The scene starts with a pop in a wrestling ring and most of the cast onstage to get a feel of who is who. Oliver (Tairekca L.A) and Orlando (Esco Jouléy) are brothers and their father has passed. Oliver the oldest sibling, takes advantage of their father's absence to leave Orlando without means or education so he challenges the reigning champion Charles to a wrestling match to set his own future. Oliver is so jealous and does not want his brother to succeed so he decides it is better for Orlando to be dead.

Rosalind (Peter Smith) lived with her uncle Duke Frederick (Rachel Crowl) and his daughter Celia (Jen Richards). Frederick banished his brother Duke Senior (David Greenspan) to the Forest of Arden, years ago. In the wrestling match, Rosalind sees Orlando and falls for him. Frederick goes paranoid and banishes Rosalind but Celia does not agree and decides to go with her to the Forest of Arden to look for Rosalind's Dad. They go in disguise, change their names, and are now siblings. Celia is Aliena and Rosalind, Ganymede. Scared to go by themselves, they bring Touchstone (Cody Sloan). Orlando catches wind that Oliver wants to kill him so he flees to the forest too. There, Duke Senior lives with lord Jacques (Rami Margron). 

Meanwhile, somewhere else, Silvius (Jess Barbagallo) a shepherd, is madly in love with a shepherdess named Phoebe (Alanna Darby) who can care less because she is smitten by Ganymede A.K.A Rosalind. Corin, another shepherd, and friend of Silvius tries to cheer him on and convince him that his courting Phoebe will take him nowhere. Aliena and Ganymede are staying with Corin. Touchstone meets Audrey (Taiwo Sokan), a goat herd, and they find love.
(L-R) Cody Sloan, Rami Margron, Esco Jouléy and Taiwo Sokan in La Jolla Playhouse’s production of
AS YOU LIKE IT,by William Shakespeare,
 co-directed by Christopher Ashley and Will Davis, produced in association with Diversionary Theatre;
photo by Rich Soublet II.

The cast is marvelous in unison with double, and triple threats, they can sing, dance, act and be funny which makes it more enjoyable and easy to watch. There are musical transitions with songs like Fast Car by Tracy Chapman amongst other pop hits masterfully arranged and musically directed live onstage by T. Carlis Roberts. This added touch gives it such a fresh, present feel. Peter Smith has a beautiful voice with a potent range. Smith and Richards make a wonderful duo; you totally get that sisterhood and how they have each other's back, definitely feels like family. Jen Richards is so tender as Celia. Cody Sloan is hilarious and bold as Touchstone. Tairekca L.A and Esco Jouléy are the fierce, feisty duo as the two brothers that do not get along. Esco Jouléy is like a breath of fresh air and mighty in interpretation. Tairekca L.A is too a great mighty force. There is an interesting presence and alternate interpretation exercise where some of the actors play two or more roles. In Rachel Crowl's case as Duke Frederick and Corin the shepherd, it is such a contrast! Frederick is evil and loud whereas Corin is more laid back and even shy. Another cool part going back to the threats is that Crowl also jumps off the stage and joins Roberts to play guitar and base. Just awesome.

Alanna Darby is comical and very sassy as Phoebe. I mean the girl is not getting to her goal, who can blame her?

Once things fall into place and everybody has their person, towards the end, four weddings are celebrated blessed by Hymen de god of marriage (Esteban Andres Cruz) who is bold and a joy to watch.

(L-R, front): Rachel Crowl (“Duke Frederick”) and Esco Jouléy (“Orlando”) with the cast of
La Jolla Playhouse’s production of AS YOU LIKE IT, by William Shakespeare,
co-directed by Christopher Ashley and Will Davis, produced in association with Diversionary Theatre;
photo by Rich Soublet II.

The costume design by Mel Ng 黄敏萍 is as mighty as the performances I even think it gives them some magic dust to enhance the intentions because absolutely every piece is exquisite. Emmie Finckel's scenic design is bright, colorful, and functional as the Potiker Theatre has audiences almost all around and Finckle used the space well so each of the three sides where the audience enjoys the performance can get their own feel and flare of the piece.

The epilogue is a gift that wraps up the great performance and leaves it open for each individual to make it their own.

To more collaborations and more great theatre!

The creative team also includes Cha See, Lighting Design, ien DeNio, Sound Design, Alberto "Albee" Alvarado, Wig and Makeup Design, Chelsea Pace, Intimacy Staging and Fight Choreography, Ursula Meyer, Voice and Text Coach, Charles Means, Stage Manager and Matthew Bantock, Assistant Stage Manager.

As You Like it is currently playing until December 11. For performance dates and times please click here

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