I’ve always loved a good Shakespeare in the Park (as long as it isn’t another Midsummer Night’s Dream – I’ve just seen far too many of them – although that one in Regent’s Park, London that I saw a few years back was pretty darn phenomenal, with all those old fashioned peddle bikes and such…but that’s another story). With that being said, it’s a funny thing to report, that this summer there is a funny parallel process that is happening for me across borders. Sadly, I am missing the second production of the Delacorte Theatre season by The Public Theater with the Public Works’ community-enriched musical adaptation of As You Like It in Central Park (Adapted by Shaina Taub and Laurie Woolery, and directed by Laurie Woolery). So, I packed away that disappointment, and instead, filled up a picnic basket with a blanket and some beverages (shoulda brought some seat cushions!), and made my way across town to Toronto’s High Park to attend Canadian Stage‘s family-friendly and flowery fun production of their As You Like It. And what a festive dream it is.
Wrapped up and planted in a sea of fertile joy, this smartly trimmed-down and thoroughly enjoyable recreation finds fun in their manufactured whimsical forest of delight and childlike demenour. Directed with playful energy by Anand Rajaram (Rohinton Mistry’s The Scream), this As You Like It grows up joyfully before our very eyes, asking us to gleefully imagine a world where flowers evolve into players of Shakespeare, and where an assortment of creatures talk and strut their hour (and a half) on the stage for us all to take in with cartoonish delight under the starry summer skies of Toronto. Summoning the actors to gather together in neutral wear with the blow of a shelled horn, the team of talented and playful artists scamper off to don festive and floral costumes that bring to mind all types of florets that match the hand-painted colorful blooms that adorn the simple yet sweet backdrop, all designed with a childlike wonder by Anne Barber and Brad Harley of Shadowland Theatre, with a loving lighting design by Logan Raju Cracknell (Bad Hats’ Alice in Wonderland).