The Curate Shakespeare As You Like It

Rated 3.0 Theater people can be a light-fingered bunch, and from time to time they like to expropriate another writer’s characters and work with them on their own terms. The conceit of adapting a classic by presenting it through the prism of a faltering, under-funded little touring theater company, struggling to bring the big work to the stage, is something of a standard—I’ve seen The Comedy of Errors done this way several times, ditto A Christmas Carol. This show employs a script dating from the 1980s by Don Nigro that grafts the method onto the rootstock of As You Like It, with mixed results.

The idea of a bunch of mediocre actors, gamely attempting what they should not by taking multiple roles in a Shakespeare play, comes all too deliciously close to what we’ve sometimes seen on stage in these parts on occasion—and that’s doubtless part of what attracted director Ed Gyles Jr. to Nigro’s script.

Alas, a little bit of this style of comedy goes a pretty long way when you’re sitting in the audience. As a sketch, it might work, especially given that Nigro has created characters who feel more like types than real people. But at full length—some two hours and 15 minutes—the concept is hard to sustain, even though the playwright generates some momentary fun spoofing his source and planting some jack-in-the-box surprises.

Nonetheless, Gyles’ cast features several enjoyable actors—the world-weary Jes Gonzales, Amir Sharafeh with his sort of liquid gaze, and energetic Andrea Marie Saenz, as a young actress unexpectedly given a field promotion into a leading role, among them.

One aside, not entirely related to this production: It’s frustrating to see yet another play in which a contemporary playwright teases us by offering a pint-sized sample of a classic. We’ve had a ton of them locally this season—Sacramento Theatre Company’s Educating Rita (in which Rita delivers a great speech from Macbeth), and the B Street’s F-Stop (in which a character demonstrates her credentials as an actress by borrowing a speech by Chekhov). Leaves you hungry for the real thing.