THE HANGOVER REPORT – Public Work’s AS YOU LIKE is an accessible, joyous summer-capping affair

Ato Blankson-Wood, left, as Orlando and Rebecca Naomi Jones as Rosalind in “As You Like It.”

Ato Blankson-Wood, left, as Orlando and Rebecca Naomi Jones as Rosalind in “As You Like It.”

Public Works returned to the Delacorte Theater in Central Park for a handful of performances this past Labor Day Weekend to close out the summer with a musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Directed with a light touch by Laurie Woolery and featuring an instantly lovable score by the talented young Shaina Taub, this Public Works production shows audiences yet again why this indispensable unit of the Public Theater has gained a reputation – only five years since its inception – as one of the most joyous, celebratory nights in the busy New York theater calendar.

Similar to previous Public Works revivals, this current adaptation is really more Shakespeare in spirit than in reality – it is heavily abridged to fit a fleet-footed single act and Ms. Taub’s sing-songy score replaces large chunks of the Bard’s language. It’s more Shakespeare reimagined than revived. As a result, this As You Like It loses some of the underlying melancholy and the languid, pastoral beauty that characterizes the play. But no matter, the entire affair is charmingly accessible, and an ideal introduction for many, especially the younger ones, to the Shakespearian canon. And although this year’s late summer outing is less overtly reliant on spectacle, Ms. Woolery still employs hundreds of New Yorkers across the five boroughs. Indeed, I marveled at the masterful crowd control on display all over again.

The cast, featuring a motley mix of both amateur and professional actors, was mostly a delight. Of the latter variety, Ato Blankson-Wood, Darius de Haas, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Joel Perez and Ms. Taub herself (playing Jacques, fittingly) were excellent. Mr. Blankson-Wood as Orlando was particularly compelling, oozing easy charisma and honest acting. He’s also rather easy on the eyes and ears. Ms. Jones was also a treat to watch, although vocal problems necessitated her to lip-synch to Ms. Taub’s live singing (seamlessly accomplished, thankfully). But the night ultimately belonged to Ms. Taub, who’s direct writing, unfussy presence, and all-encompassing generosity embodied the Public Works initiative at large.



Off-Broadway, Musical
Public Works at the Delacorte Theater
1 hour, 30 minutes (without an intermission)

Categories: Off-Broadway, Theater

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