Friday, March 17, 2006

As U Lyk It

The world is filled with adaptations of Shakespeare, both original texts in new settings (think Baz Luhrman's "Romeo+Juliet") and adaptations of Shakespeare's stories (think today's release of "She's The Man," a modern tale based on "Twelfth Night.") But I don't think I've seen an adaptation which translates Shakespeare to a modern setting, retaining most of the original text, yet changing certain speeches to reflect the new take on the story, and adding new lines with a modern flavor, but that still have the distinctive style of the Bard.

"As U Lyk It" takes one of the master's greatest comedies and reimagines it in modern-day Pasadena. The basic story is still there - but instead of one duke banishing his brother to the forest, the new mayor of Pasadena steals the election from his elder brother and sends him out into the Mojave Desert. Instead of the brave Orlando defeating the Duke's champion, Charles, in battle, the two men are now drivers who duel on the short track NASCAR course the new mayor has established in the Rose Bowl.

"As You Like It" is all about love in its various forms, and at the end, everyone is happily wed. In "As U Lyk It," love once again reigns supreme, but adapter Alison Carey has broadened the love interest to include gay and lesbian couples, who also desire to marry. The famous "seven ages of man" speech is brilliantly done, though man's ages in this "California concoction" include cartoon, sitcom, reality show, drama, rerun, and ultimate cancellation.

The audience didn't seem to care much for the show; at least 60 people left at intermission. But the more I think about it, the more I like it. Although Carey gets a bit too strident with the politics, the rewriting is imaginative yet respectful of the original, and the issues raised are real and contemporary. My problems are with the acting and direction. Although the performances aren't awful, I think a recasting of the some of the roles would help the show tremendously, and director Bill Rauch could learn a few things about subtlety. (The show, however, is still in previews, so I'll cut them some slack.) What's more, they might do better in a less conservative community than Pasadena, where the Bush-bashing might have a better chance of getting the desired laughs.

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