As You Like It

On Friday night, A.J. and I went to see As You Like It performed by Optimist Theatre in Kadish Park. This was our second “Shakespeare in the Park” production; last year, we saw Optimist Theatre perform Macbeth.

This was an absolutely phenomenal production. I would have gladly paid a normal ticket price to see a show of this caliber and they lovingly presented it for free. As is always the case for this company, the cast and production staff was a veritable “Who’s Who” of Southeastern Wisconsin professional theatre. The quality that they bring to the table is unmatched. Particular standouts for me were Todd Denning as Touchstone (the fool), Genesee Spridco as Audrey (his love interest), and Christopher Elst in his various roles (especially the wrestler).

The staging and direction from Tom Reed was unique and inspired. There is the perfect blend of the Shakespeare text with modern concepts and accents that gave the show an almost contemporary feel. That feeling was complimented by the costumes, set, and props.

Personally, for me, the only negative aspect of the show was the venue itself. I know that the staff and board of the theatre are very proud of finding this excellent outdoor setting for their future endeavors but I don’t think that it works for this type of production.

When you arrive the scene is almost idyllic. The venue is set on hill in Kadish Park overlooking the Milwaukee cityscape. It looks absolutely perfect. Unfortunately, the hill is very steep. I witnessed no less than six people slip and/or fall on their way to their seats throughout the night and this was when the ground was dry. Also, being high above the rest of the city in an open area allowed for a lot of the city noise (fire trucks, loud cars, music playing in adjacent apartments, fireworks) to disrupt my attention from the show.

The biggest flaw with the venue, however, is the sound. The stage itself is wide open with no backdrop, natural or man-made. This allows for the sound to be carried in all directions instead of being directed toward the audience. Although, there is a big, wonderful hill to accommodate a large audience, only those sitting right up front can adequately hear the dialogue on stage. I hope that they consider moving to a different venue next year or maybe even back to Alverno College.

In spite of all that, I would strongly encourage you to go see this fantastic show. Plan to arrive at 2 hours before curtain to ensure great seats up front and you will have a magnificent time. In fact, take a picnic dinner or a bottle of wine to pass the time before the show starts. You won’t regret it.

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