“All the world’s a stage,” Jacques (Jeanine Kane) tells us in Shakespeare’s sweeping comedy, “As You Like It,” and Gamm Theatre directors Tony Estrella and Rachel Walshe keep their actors constantly moving in this funny, pull-no-punches production.
In their last performance in Pawtucket before moving to Warwick, Estrella reconfigures the small space, putting the audience on both sides and the action in the middle and up and down the stairs. Scenes change rapidly from the Duke’s palace to the Forest of Arden, with an abundance of characters and musicians, many playing more than one role, moving freely about.
“As You Like It” is a play about love and romance with all of its flaws. Estrella has chosen to cast the comedy with gender-bending actors outfitted with outrageous costumes and wigs. While the decision mostly works and adds a fresh approach to the play, it takes a little time to adjust.
Shura Baryshnikov, an accomplished actress, dancer, choreographer and teacher, makes a perfect Orlando, madly in love with Rosalind, played by Nora Eschenheimer, who is passing for a male.
The play is a true comedy of errors with many characters interacting, at times giving it a feeling of a circus out of control. The acting, as I have come to expect, is excellent, from the smallest role to the largest.
Sam Babbitt returns to Gamm to play Adam. He leaves us at the end of the first act, but returns for the finale.
When it comes to gender bending, Gunnar Manchester and Casey Seymour Kim are hysterical in their role reversals. Jeff Church, artistic director of Burbage Theatre, chews up the scenery as Touchstone, the ultimate comic relief. Church is a physical actor, and his shtick is filled with prat falls and movements that will have you roaring with laughter.
Speaking of physical, there’s a wrestling match at the beginning that outdoes World Wrestling Entertainment.
Gamm has pulled out all the stops for this production. It does get a bit overwhelming at times, but the pace is so fast you don’t have time to catch your breath.
“As You Like It” is at Gamm Theatre, 172 Exchange St. in Pawtucket through May 27. Call 723-4266 for reservations.