If you know anything about Sam Mendes, then you know he is the Academy Award winning director of American Beauty (And: Jarhead, Revolutionary Road, and Away We Go). If you know anything else about him, you know he is married to Kate Winslet (Titanic, obviously). However, if all you know are Mendes’ film projects and his love life, you will be in for a pleasant surprise to see his genius at work with Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Now playing at the BAM Harvey Theater in Brooklyn, NY, As You Like It is running as a part of this year’s Bridge Project. The Bridge Project is a traveling theater group combining the forces of powerful actors from the UK and the US.
Visually, the Harvey Theater is a great space for this (and any) performance. The stage management and set design combine to create a subtly simple yet, aesthetically elaborate backdrop. Additionally, the play’s incorporation of live music creates a sonic element so often lost with pre-recorded audio tracks. From sing-alongs, to stage combat, the stage is set with jovial moments, and heated scenes of passionate emotion. It is clear that the people behind the scenes are doing their jobs. However, along with great direction comes great performance.
The Bridge Project is a great way to see solid performers without being on Broadway, and without downgrading too far to the sketchy off-off-off Broadway gambles. The actors are believable, (by this I mean, their accents are not distracting) and the pseudo-contemporary approach to Shakespeare is an all around success. Though last year’s Bridge Project showcased Ethan Hawke, this year’s cast is equally impressive, including…
Michelle Beck (Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Twelfth Night, Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Cyrano de Bergerac)
Christian Camargo (Broadway’s All My Sons, the film The Hurt Locker)
Tony Award-winner Stephen Dillane (Broadway’s The Real Thing, HBO’s John Adams)
Obie Award-winner Alvin Epstein (Broadway’s The Three Penny Opera, BAM’s Endgame)
Obie Award-winner Ron Cephas Jones (Broadway’s Gem of the Ocean, Donmar’s Jesus Hopped the A-Train)
Juliet Rylance (Theatre for a New Audience’s Othello, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre’s The Winter’s Tale)
Thomas Sadoski (Broadway’s reasons to be pretty and Reckless)
more info at http://www.bam.org/view.aspx?pid=1672
If you are in the mood for some Old English drama, skip the liquor store, and head to the Harvey Theater. As You Like It runs until March 13.