As You Like It, a Classic for Our Time

We beat the heat last night with a fun performance of As You Like It at the Virginia Shakespeare Festival at Phi Beta Kappa Hall, College of William and Mary. My worries and heat fatigue were whisked away as I watched Wall Street outcasts shiver in the cold winter woods of Central Park.

Wall Street? Central Park? Yes, this was Shakespeare, brilliantly set in the world of Wall Street circa 1930 by artistic director Karl Kippola. The opening scenes of turmoil and rivalry between corporate “dukedoms” (complete with public protests and the search for someone to blame) echoed headlines from our ongoing economic recession. Comic relief came in the form of a wrestling match pitting greedy sophisticates against humble citizens. The physical humor was worthy of World Championship Wrestling (and about as close, even metaphorically, as I want to get to that kind of event.)

Inspired acting and physical humor abounded throughout the fine cast of 19. These performers gave it their all, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Robert Arbaugh (Orlando) was particularly adept at taking stage with his energetic and commanding entrances. Amaree Cluff (Rosalind) was equally commanding, handling her dual role with both grace and the convincing awkwardness expected from a woman masquerading as a man.

Amaree Cluff as Rosalind, Rob Arbaugh as Orlando, As You Like It, Virginia Shakespeare Festival, 2010
Amaree Cluff as Rosalind, Rob Arbaugh as Orlando
Joe Brack as Touchstone, Catherine Bullard as Audrey, As You Like It, Virginia Shakespeare Festival, 2010
Joe Brack as Touchstone, Catherine Bullard as Audrey

Joe Brack as the jester Touchstone deserves special notice for his nuanced movements in a role that is designed to be over-the-top. His delivery added a layer of sophistication to a role that many would play for maximum buffoonery. He and Catherine Bullard (Audrey) deserve an award for sheer energy and stamina in their demanding roles that wove continuity through the plot’s twists and turns.

I wanted to hear more from the talented singers and musicians anchored by John Ammerman (Jacques), Tom Prescott (Amiens) and Chad Murla (a Lord/Charles) , but reminded myself that this was Shakespeare, not a musical. I’ll make a note to watch for them in more expansive musical roles.

Get your tickets for this engaging show at The performance is from 8:00 – 10:45 p.m. with one intermission.

If, like me, you haven’t read Shakespeare since college, prepare yourself with this good synopsis at WikiPedia. We don’t hear Shakespearean English everyday, so this advanced preparation helped us to fully enjoy the characters and plot.

I’m already looking forward to the next production: A Man for All Seasons, beginning July 22.


  1. Nick Martin says:

    You got the names of the musicians wrong! The musicians were Tom Prescott (Amiens) and Chad Murla (a Lord/Charles). Check your facts please

  2. Thank you for setting the record straight. I apologize for misreading the program notes. I have verified the musicians’ names with VSF’s publicity person and have updated the post accordingly.


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