Mirrors up to Nature

By CAROLYN CLAY  |  July 29, 2008

Obie winner Frederick Weller (of the USA Network drama In Plain Sight) is a strong if initially tongue-tied Orlando. Let’s face it, the lovesick wrestler can seem a little wimpy: no match for Rosalind. But Weller’s Orlando bursts with emotional defiance, whether it’s directed at his older brother, Duke Frederick, or the woodland courtiers he imagines too savage to share. And I liked his ambivalence in the awkward scenes with Rosalind as Ganymede, whom he can’t decide whether to laugh at or grab.

Of course, more goes on in the forest than this one warped courtship. And Maler fills the rustication with song and dance, the racing background music pungently pierced by Tom Gleadow’s near-operatic renditions of the folk songs from which Duke Senior hanger-on Jaques sucks melancholy “as a weasel sucks eggs.” Fred Sullivan Jr.’s Jaques is pretty operatic himself, investing the depressive lord with a melancholia that’s downright flamboyant. And Larry Coen is a more natty than nasty Touchstone, the “motley fool” gone AWOL from court to delight Jaques in the forest. Gradually shedding his yellow pinstriped suit to go native among the “country copulatives,” Coen’s Touchstone is a bright presence, whether debating Jim Wrynn’s laid-back old Corin or trying to feel up Becky Webber’s fiddle-playing Audrey (who decks him).

Some broad-comic sadomasochism is provided by Jennie Israel’s Phebe, the plain-Jane shepherdess who falls for Ganymede, and Paul Melendy’s Silvius, the long-suffering swain who sees nirvana in Phebe’s “inky brows” and “bugle eyeballs.” Although he gets stripped, pummeled, and ridden like a horse on his way to bliss, Melendy’s gangly, yelping Silvius captures the pain of love better than anything else in the production.

Maler has a way with the grand finale, and As You Like It’s is heralded by Hymen’s parading down the center aisle like a large dragonfly, then binding the play’s quartet of couples with bright orange ribbons before a full-out folk dance that precedes the epilogue. So, on a balmy night on Boston Common, all may be as you like it — if not, for those who think this comedy’s journey is to a deeper place, as you love it.

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman’s taste runs less to Shakespeare than to South Pacific. At least it does in Peter Parnell’s 2001 play about the colorful scientist known for his work on quantum electrodynamics, QED. And it does take the edge off the trepidation of an audience member whose one crash course in physics has been Copenhagen to enter the new Central Square Theater, where QED continues through August 3, and hear not Einstein on the Beach but Rodgers & Hammerstein.

The Catalyst Collaborative @ MIT production of QED opens the spanking-new 200-seat black box shared by Nora Theatre Company and Catalyst partner Underground Railway Theater, playing in rep with jazz virtuoso Stan Strickland’s Coming Up for Air: An AutoJAZZography. Both shows are directed by Jon Lipsky, and they’re more compatible bedfellows than you might think, since QED presents its scientist as a sort of artist clown. And that conception of the eccentric, eclectic Feynman didn’t start with QED; fellow physicist Freeman Dyson once described Feynman as “half genius, half buffoon.”

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