“All you need is love.” —The Beatles
There’s a new hit in town, adapted and directed by Daryl Cloran, featuring the songs of rock ‘n’ roll icons The Beatles. The book is based on As You Like It by dead white male genius William Shakespeare, and let me tell you, you will dig it.
As You Like It is pure psychedelic love, full of dance, song, and third-rate poetry affixed to trees by our hero Orlando (Jeff Irving).
It begins with a WWE-style wrestling match. Our host is announcer Touchstone (Kayvon Khoshkam), looking sharp in a blue striped jacket, shades, and white platform shoes.
Fab Charles the Wrestler (Marco Walker-Ng) is taking on all comers for a cash prize, and he means it. Among others, there is Mustachio (Matthew Ip Shaw), two Assassins (Evan Rein & Henry Beasley) apparently from Ikea, and a newcomer with more than wrestling on his mind.
Eleanor Rigby (Alexandra Lainfiesta) is on hand, in a mini-skirt and white go-go boots.
Dame Frances (Jennifer Lines), a local business owner on a major power trip, overlooks the proceedings in a purple suit and a Jackie Kennedy pillbox hat. In Shakespeare, there are two Dukes, one bad, one good, both male. Both Dukes here are women, which cuts down on the patriarchy vibe. Dame Frances has forced her sister Dame Senior (also Jennifer Lines) to leave town so she can take over. What a bummer!
The Beatles’ “Money (That’s What I Want)” is the star of this scene, and as an opening, it is truly far-out.
We learn that the hunky Orlando has been kept poor and doofus-y by his envious older brother, Oliver (Matthew MacDonald-Bain). Orlando has one friend, ancient flower child Adam (Norman Moses). He finds out that brother Oliver plans to kill him, and he decides to split.
Rosalind (Chelsea Rose) has been chillin’ with cousin Celia (Naomi Ngebulana), daughter of the rotten Dame Frances. It turns out Frances has an envy issue too, and she banishes Rosalind for being too popular. This devastates Celia, and the two girls decide to beat it. They will make tracks to the Forest of Arden, with Celia taking the name Aliena. Rosalind will be disguised as a dude (named Ganymede) just in case, you know. Touchstone (Kayvon Khoshkam), who works for Dame Frances, will go with them. As Celia and Rosalind sing “We Can Work It Out,” we celebrate with them. They are going to let their freak flag fly.
The wrestling scene gets freaky too, with participants standing on the ropes, singing “She Loves You,” and using non-copacetic methods. At one point a trash can takes the stage.
As Dame Frances, Jennifer Lines is really, really good at being really, really evil. Jeff Irving as Orlando has the sincerity and righteous anger down, and funky Elvis moves when he sings. Eleanor Rigby (Alexandra Lainfiesta), seriously athletic (and having a good time for once), has a groovy time with her role. Rosalind (Chelsea Rose) and Celia (Naomi Ngebulana) have cousin chemistry to burn and add their own boss comic touches throughout. Orlando and Rosalind do a trippin’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
The Shakespeare and 20th-century texts blend really well, and most of the misogyny and 16th-century religion is taken out. The speeches Shakespeare groupies love are all there.
Once Rosalind (as Ganymede), Celia (Aliena), Touchstone, Orlando, and Adam are in the forest, it’s clear that time is on their side. Rosalind and Celia purchase a psychedelic shack, since that’s where it’s at.
Orlando and Adam meet Dame Senior (Jennifer Lines) in pale orange and bearing a striking resemblance to Janis Joplin. Dame Senior is Rosalind’s mother and has organized a love-in with her Forest Lords (Ben Elliott, Isaiah Terrell-Dobbs, Marco Walker-Ng, and Sally Zori). There is a Magic Bus, and flower power rules. Only one cat doesn’t hang loose: melancholic wit Jaques (Andrew Cownden). He is wearing a black turtleneck, of course.
A local shepherd, Silvius (also Ben Elliot), is hopelessly in love with the disdainful Phoebe (also Alexandra Lainfiesta). And yes, he sings, “I Saw Her Standing There.” Egghead Touchstone falls in love with the naive but willing Audrey (Emma Slipp), and they perform a super-fab “When I’m 64.”
Jaques, in the original Shakespeare, uses the word ducdame. No one really knows what it means, even today. Directors often stage it with Jaques surrounded by a circle of people, echoing the line “’Tis a Greek invocation to call fools into a circle.” Here, instead of ducdame, Andrew Cownden’s Jaques, using the same invocation line, gets to sing “Goo goo g’joob” from the Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus,” to his very own circle of fools. It’s a gas!
In a nod to the ’60s drug scene, one Forest Lord did appear stoned, but I wasn’t sure. Maybe, like everyone else in the theater, he was just having a blast.
Director of this hallucinogenic shindig is Daryl Cloran. Costumes by Carmen Alatorre feature every kind of ’60s threads you can imagine. Set design, by Pam Johnson, complete with Magic Bus, is totally marvy. Of course, musically nothing is better than the Beatles, and this show will make you remember why. Music Director/Music Supervisor is Ben Elliot; Sound Designer is Alistair Wallace. Dance and movement are over-the-top bitchin’, and could almost give you a contact high. Choreographer and Fight Director is Jonathan Hawley Purvis. The mind-blowing lighting design is by Gerald King.
Turn on. Tune in. Drop Out. And DON’T MISS IT.
Running Time: Two hours and 40 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.
As You Like It plays through January 7, 2024, presented by Shakespeare Theatre Company at Harman Hall, 610 F Street NW, Washington, DC. Tickets ($54–$129) are available at the box office, online, or by calling (202) 547-1122. Shakespeare Theatre Company offers discounts for military servicepeople, first responders, senior citizens, young people, and neighbors, as well as rush tickets. Contact the Box Office or visit Shakespearetheatre.org/tickets-and-events/special-offers/for more information. Audio-described and captioned performances are also available.
The Asides program for As You Like It is online here.
COVID Safety: All performances are mask recommended. Read more about STC’s Health and Safety policies here.
As You Like It
By William Shakespeare
Adapted and Directed by Daryl Cloran
Conceived by Daryl Cloran & Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival
William/Jacques de Boys/Assassin/Forest Lord #1: Henry Beasley
Corin/Dame Frances’ Attendant: Jennifer Copping
Jaques/LeBeau: Andrew Cownden
Silvius/Forest Lord: Ben Elliott
Mustachio: Matthew Ip Shaw
Orlando de Boys: Jeff Irving
Touchstone: Kayvon Khoshkam
Phoebe/Eleanor Rigby: Alexandra Lainfiesta
Dame Frances/Dame Senior: Jennifer Lines
Oliver de Boys: Matthew MacDonald-Bain
Adam/Martext: Norman Moses
Celia: Naomi Ngebulana
Amiens/Hymen/Assassin: Evan Rein
Rosalind: Chelsea Rose
Audrey/Lady Danger: Emma Slipp
Forest Lord: Isaiah Terrell-Dobbs
Charles the Wrestler/Forest Lord: Marco Walker-Ng
Forest Lord: Sally Zori
Dance Captain: Marco Walker-Ng
Fight Captain: Matthew Ip Shaw
Director: Daryl Cloran
Music Director/Music Supervisor: Ben Elliot
Choreographer & Fight Director: Jonathan Hawley Purvis
Scenic Designer: Pam Johnson
Costume Designer: Carmen Alatorre
Lighting Designer: Gerald King
Sound Designer: Alistair Wallace
Original Sound Designer: Peter McBoyle
Original Associate Sound Designer: Owen Hutchinson
Creative Consultant: Rick Boynton
Pre-Show Content and Comedic Contributions: Kayvon Khoshkam
Clearance & Music Consulting: John Ciccone, Copyright Music & Visuals
Conceived by Daryl Cloran & Christopher Gaze on behalf of Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival
Money (That’s What I Want)
We Can Work It Out
She Loves You
I Want to Hold Your Hand
I Saw Her Standing There
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
I am the Walrus
The Fool on the Hill
Let It Be
Do You Want to Know a Secret?
Eight Days a Week
Eight Days a Week/I Want to Hold Your Hand
When I’m 64
You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away
Love Me Do
Can’t Buy Me Love
Got to Get You into My Life
Good Day Sunshine
Here Comes the Sun
Across the Universe
All You Need Is Love