AS YOU LIKE IT
SHAKESPEARE THEATRE OF NEW JERSEY
Most of all, the production accents the intrinsically sweet and loony edge of the characters with an infectious spirit of fun and fancy. Adopting the enchanted Forest of Arden as the setting for an idyllic romantic game, Monte and her admirable troupe mine the play’s inherent humor and embrace its romanticism without being too broadly comic.
On several levels the production is far more palatable than either Peter Hall’s Theater Royal, Bath mounting at BAM earlier this year or Mark Lamos’ Shakespeare in the Park staging this summer. From dukes and courtiers to clergy and country shepherds, the comedy has been distinctively cast. There is a focused consistency and unity in delivery and an instinctive grasp of the Bard’s playful concept.
Mark Mineart’s Touchstone is not the usual court jester so often drawn. His worldly fool has a well-seasoned wisdom and maturity seldom seen in the character. His flirtation with rustic wench Audrey (Colleen Piquette) makes for an appealing May-December courtship.
As You Like It, Shakespeare's romantic comedy about the evils of the city versus the innocence of the countryside, is being offered by the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey as a season-ending Christmas present to its audience. It's a good choice.
Mark Mineart as Touchstone is just as insightful as his portrayal of Lennie was in the company's 2004 production of Of Mice and Men. His eyes sparkle as much as the ice as he parries, with words, as both a fool and a lover.
Amid all this whiteness there is a piece of coal in the form of Jaques, dressed in black from head to toe. They call him melancholy? Bah, humbug. Wentworth's Jaques is clinically depressed. He finds joy in life only when he can debate philosophy with Touchstone.
The Daily Record
Artistic director Bonnie J. Monte, envisioning the Bard's light romantic comedy as a holiday gift to her loyal audience, emphasized the warm spirits inhabiting the frosty Forest of Arden on a set that surrounded the characters in icy white and blue.
The players are, top to bottom, agreeably charming. Particularly so is Mack, who caught many by surprise on this stage in 2003 with her stunning Eliza Doolittle in "Pygmalion." Mineart, another audience favorite since his powerful work as Lennie in last year's "Of Mice and Men," shows off his range as Touchstone.
It may not make you think Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or any other holiday, but if you love Shakespeare, this is Shakespeare as you like it.
The Princeton Packet
As You Like It is generally perceived as Shakespeare's happiest play. Director Bonnie Monte has filled her vision with colorful forest inhabitants who indeed "find tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones and good in everything." In keeping with the season, she even sprinkles snow amidst the joy of four weddings.
The lovers (Victoria Mack as Rosalind and Kevin Isola as Orlando) do indeed "please." Mark Mineart romps through the role of Touchstone, the court clown finding little difficulty in practicing his art in the forest. The rustics — David Douglas Smith, Patrick Toon, Colleen Piquette, Nathan Kaufman and Tarah Flanagan — fill the secondary love plot lines happily. Richard Bourg lends dignity to the role of Duke Senior, banished but unbowed.
Home News Tribune
Noteworthy, too, is Mark Mineart's Touchstone, also cast against type as the sarcastic jester and Rosalind's traveling companion. Jacques' gloom and Michael Schweikardt's wintry minimal set notwithstanding, As You Like It is probably the happiest, sunniest play that Shakespeare ever penned. In the program notes, Monte describes "As You Like It" as "a most delicious confection . . . light, airy and whimsical" — which pretty much sums up this production, offered to us as a sweet holiday treat.