'As You Like It' Theater Review: Kyle Scatliffe Is A Romantic Hero Among The Best At Bay Street Theater - 27 East

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‘As You Like It’ Theater Review: Kyle Scatliffe Is A Romantic Hero Among The Best At Bay Street Theater

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Copyright Lenny Stucker

Copyright Lenny Stucker

Copyright Lenny Stucker

Copyright Lenny Stucker

Copyright Lenny Stucker

author on Aug 13, 2017

Tall, dark and handsome are many a romantic hero, and once they speak in a timbre that resonates character and strength, we emotionally snuggle up. Laurence Olivier had “it” as Orlando, a record of which exists from the early days of cinema in a scratchy video; so did David Oyelowo seven decades later in the HBO version. Now we have Kyle Scatliffe and, lucky us, he’s in Sag Harbor taking full command of the role of the lovelorn Orlando in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” at Bay Street Theater.

Mr. Scatliffe is best known for his role in the 2014 Broadway revival of “Les Misérables.” He’s everything you want in a Shakespearean lover: forceful when speaking up about his older brother cheating him of his birthright; sad as a dejected puppy when love seems lost. Of course, this being one of Shakespeare’s comedies, we know this unfortunate turn of events will reverse and Orlando will succeed. What was betwixt and between lovers will dissipate and marriage—actually several—is soon to follow.

Hannah Cabell, as the object of Orlando's affection, Rosalind, is Mr. Scatliffe’s theatrical match par for par. As is often the way in Shakespeare’s comedies, Ms. Cabell has the more imaginative role. She gets to cross-dress and romp about as a wily lad while toying with Orlando, who is none the wiser until she is ready to reveal.

This staging, done in conjunction with off-Broadway’s Classic Stage Company, is directed by that company’s artistic director, John Doyle. It is set in the Jazz Age in a spartan club with new music by the much-lauded composer Stephen Schwartz, who happens to be the father of Bay Street’s artistic director, Scott Schwartz. Why not keep it in the family when the family includes a composer with three Oscars, four Grammies, and a Tony?

The music is performed by several of the actors, and adds a diverting new dimension to a play that is one of the Bard’s 13 comedies (or 17, depending on who’s counting). Word play, confused identities, brothers in conflict followed by resolution, the noble heart that at the end triumphs—all are common in Shakespeare’s playwriting, and all are included here.

What is notable—and why the play is often done—is the richness of the dialogue. What is famous about the play is the speech that follows its most quoted line: “All the world’s a stage.” That line and following soliloquy goes to the actor with the most star power here, Ellen Burstyn, who needs no introduction to theater fans.

Ms. Burstyn has a minor role as Jacques, a melancholic philosopher-commentator. She is so downbeat it feels that, while she wears the costume, she merely is walking through the part. Her uninspired delivery about the seven stages of man that follows the line above sadly swallows its impact.

Notable among the musician-actors is Leenya Rideout as Phoebe (who is also looking for love), who plays both the violin and cello, and Bob Stillman, who plays the piano, and takes on dual roles as a pair of dukes. André De Shields is the ubiquitous jester, Touchstone, a part the wiry man seems made for; Quincy Tyler Bernstine is Rosalind’s bestie, Celia. Others in the cast are Noah Brody, Cass Morgan and David Samuel.

The set is purposefully stark, with a copious back cloth, a piano and a few barroom chairs. With language as rich as Shakespeare’s, it works; but the real star of the ingenious set design (also by Mr. Doyle) is Mike Baldassari’s lighting. A flotilla of globes descends from the ceiling and at times are flamboyantly multicolored, or all green as in a forest, or blue and white for a starry night. As the hues alternate, the effect is surprisingly magical.

The original script has been pared down for this production, and the short resolution between battling brothers that seems a simple add on in the original is omitted, but not missed. The cast is biracial—one brother is black, the other white—but today that is notable only in that it matters not. The play’s the thing, right?

Shakespeare may have invented the rom-com, with all of hot love’s many snags and hitches, and his ever-knowing eye was always on the necessary happy ending between lovers. And thus we exit smiling.

“As You Like It” continues at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor through September 3. Performances are Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7 p.m., Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. Matinées will be held on Wednesdays, August 16, August 23 and August 30, and Sundays, August 20, August 27 and September 3, at 2 p.m. Tickets range from $40 to $125. Call 631-725-9500 or visit baystreet.org.

Patrons under age 20 may purchase tickets to any performance for $20, and patrons under 30 may purchase tickets for $30, in person or by phone only.

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