The Acting Company’s As You Like It in Troy Savings Bank Music Hall on Wednesday, March 13th, was quite the gentlest performance of the play I have seen. The wrestling scene was mercifully brief, the songs sweet and soft, the relationships clear as a bell without exaggeration. For me, the center of this approach was the excellent Orlando, played by Joseph Midyett. He was neither bewildered nor positive. His participation in the feigning, which is the middle of the play, had a knowingness to it which never quite went over the edge, even though there was that one kiss which came across, to me, as utterly spontaneous—a young man kissing the boy Ganymede who is really a girl, wooing him for herself by playing another. Instead of concentrating on the twists and turns of this, this production showed me the reality of it—how the laws of nature made Ganymede into a very Rosalind, regardless of his/ her gender. Far from touting the gender politics that seems everywhere in Shakespearean production these days, this performance went a long way toward eliminating it. It was almost radical in its acceptance. The spirit of Rosalind, and even somehow her person, was present in Ganymede. After all, it was! A gentleness pervaded their talking, and the excellent Elizabeth Stahlmann as Rosalind seemed to be trying whatever would work, instead of impressing us, in this greatest of all of Shakespeare’s female roles. In our day of genderizing there is just as much critical pigeonholing around, maybe more, as there would have been in the 17th century, when Ganymede really was a boy. The performance did not advertise this; it solved it. It made it work, and its method was gentleness.
Speeches in the resonant hall were given their space. Nothing was hurried. I heard an exquisite balance between motion and comprehension. There was no effort to keep it all going because there was no need. These were actors whose skill was not advertised but used. Even Touchstone, even Phoebe, had a contentment, and did not rant too rantingly. There was a strong Celia in Megan Bartle which made it easier for the Rosalind to be human and not all-sufficient. The stage, bare except for several trees and some old Victrolas, wheeled around as sound-makers, was rich in my imagination. This was a beautiful thing.