By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Second Thought Theatre, founded a few years ago by a group of talented and ambitious Baylor drama grads, has been floundering lately with weak scripts, unfocused directors and so-so casts. Now they're back in top form with Edmond, the company's best production since last year's Lawrence and Holloman. What a fine, fearsome way to begin the new year.
As I'd like it, Shakespeare's As You Like It would run at least an hour shorter and be many times better executed than the sad production currently dragging around the stage at Addison's WaterTower Theatre. Find me any theatergoer clamoring for Shakespeare comedies that go past 11:00. Nobody wants to sit through five acts of anything with only one intermission. Really, who wants to see any Shakespeare at all, unless it's for extra credit or it's in the park in the summer where you can eat snacks and drown your boredom with hard lemonade?
Why WaterTower, which usually stacks its season with contemporary comedies, a musical or two and maybe a socially relevant drama that was once a modest Broadway hit, would resort to the Bard is beyond comprehension. This is not the place for the classics. This is the place for middlebrow entertainments that go over with suburbanites.
For As You Like It, the first time WaterTower has staged any Shakespeare, the theater has worked with the drama department at Southern Methodist University. Besides providing cheap labor, this means the cast is full of young, pretty faces who speak Shakespeare's words with little regard to volume or crispness of diction. Mush-mouthiness prevails. Even the non-students have trouble with the language, particularly Dan Forsythe as Orlando. "I am the youngesht shon of Shir Roland DuBoish," he shaysh.
Sho it goesh. Adding to the swampiness of the whole shebang, director Terry Martin has set the play in southern Louisiana in the 1950s. What this provides in the context of the thing, besides ladies' costumes that lean to circle skirts and pointy bras, isn't clear. It makes about as much sense as time-shifting As You Like It to ancient Egypt or onto the Starship Enterprise.
There is only one actor who knows what he's doing in this otherwise lethargic production. Sean Hennigan makes his entrance into the Forest of Arden (in this case, a misty cypress grove) as Jaques at approximately 9:05 p.m. and delivers the play's best-known speech: "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players...."
Hennigan's rich voice fills the theater and his performance of the brilliant 28-line rumination on the seven stages of man's life is heavenly. But his role affords scant stage time and without him, the rest goes on sans humor, sans romance, sans spark, sans everything.