By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Over at the Pasadena Playhouse, playwright Alison Carey spins As You Like Iton a stick (what Jarry did to Macbeth),though she goes about it in exactly the opposite way, amplifying the familiar and the literal by setting the play in and around Pasadena (the ex-mayor — Gerald Hiken — gets exiled to the Mojave Desert), turning the Rose Bowl into a NASCAR racetrack and peppering the soufflé with jokes about Bush, gay marriage and any number of current concerns that fit into the play’s mélange of gender-bending and double identities. (Carey’s subtitle is A California Concoction.) However, none of this feels like a too-heavy necklace, for several reasons: Carey’s contemporary goofs in iambic pentameter being the first, and then there’s the sheer force of her wit. There’s also the conspicuously schematic structure of Shakespeare’s comedy, which is itself a joke about divine order in a chaotic world, into which Carey’s topical references come off as little winks.
Peter Howard’s leather-jacketed and dark-shaded Jacques (his “All the world’s a stage” becomes “All the world’s a show”) is a cast-out television producer fighting bouts of depression. (He has an aria on the various types of depression that’s among the play’s highlights.) It all settles into a kind of treatise on the cosmic power of love in all its permutations, which is where Carey reunites with Shakespeare.
Kate Mulligan attacks her many-gendered multiple roles (including a truth-bearing alien) with an infectious glee, and Christopher Liam Moore’s Rosalind (who goes in disguise as a man) is one of those memorable performances where androgyny becomes a character unto itself. His Rosalind carries herself with a poise that melts into a subtly effeminate “lover boy” when he/she dons a cowboy getup in the desert.
This is director Bill Rauch’s parting production with Cornerstone Theater Company, and it bears the robust stamp of his personality, and of that into which Cornerstone has evolved under his decades-long watch — intellectually precocious and perhaps more openhearted than open-minded. There’s jab after jab at Republicans, but not a single swing at the Republicans-lite Democrats, whose convictions are determined by poll ratings and convenience, and who helped set the stage for the mess we’re in.
The topicality of As You Like It only reinforces the beauty of Ubu, with its relentless savaging not of people but of the qualities that bring us all down. The Republican Party doesn’t have a patent on those qualities, even if it does hold all the political cards for the moment.?
UBU THE KING | By ALFRED JARRY | Presented by A NOISE WITHIN, 134 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale | Through May 7 | (818) 240-0910, Ext. 10
AS YOU LIKE IT: A California Concoction | By ALISON CAREY | Presented by CORNERSTONE THEATER COMPANY and the PASADENA PLAYHOUSE, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena | Through April 16 | (626) 356-7529