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Stage Raw: As You Like It

Stage Raw: As You Like It

As You Like It Photo courtesy of Aquila Theatre

Summer is in full heat across the Southland, which brings out amphitheater productions of Shakespeare with the frequency of garden barbecues:
Cymbeline and Julius Caesar at Theatricum Botanicum, A Midsummer Night's Dream at both Theatricum Botanicum and Veterans Center for the Performing Arts (at the Bandshell in West L.A.), Independent Shakespeare Company's The Tempest and Henry V at Barsndall Park, and -- in a fleeting appearance, Aquila Theatre As You Like It.

Aquila is an NYC-based troupe that originated in London and now tours the country. I caught them in the outside patio of Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral, but on Saturday they'll be at the South Coast Botanical Gardens on Crenshaw in Palos Verdes.

One of the actors had to fly home to London for a family emergency, which led to Ben Donenberg of Shakespare Festival L.A. (the local company that was presenting Aquila) stepping in to play Cory, the shepherd, in a contrapuntally down-home southern drawl (compared to the clipped English and Scottish dialects flaunted by Aquila). Also, in the absence of the actor, the production's director Kenn Saberton stepped in as Dukes Frederick and Senior. Amidst the scenic delight of autumn leaves pouring out of bags suspended on high, the intricate story of competing dukes and competing brothers, mistaken identities and tests of love's loyalty, and some beautiful passages about the life of profit and commerce at court, compared to the rustic simplicity of life in the fields, came though loud and clear. It certainly held the attention of crowds of students bused in for the occasion. The principals -- Leandra Ashton's Rosalind and Richard Kidd's Orlando -- dispatched their task with skill, but it was the cameos that provided the raw production's eccentricities and delight: James Lavendar doing a triple turn as Touchstone, Oliver and Adam, Lucy Black's gormless yet spry Audrey and Phoebe, and Vaishnavi Sharma's lovely Celia. SOUTH COAST BOTANIC GARDEN, 26300 Crenshaw Blvd., Palos Verdes Peninsula; Sat., July 25, 6 p.m., www.bardinthegarden.org. (213) 481-2273. (Steven Leigh Morris)

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