Into the Woods: As You Like It's Arden Forest Grows at Public as Bard Comedy Opens, April 14

News   Into the Woods: As You Like It's Arden Forest Grows at Public as Bard Comedy Opens, April 14 As You Like It, the Shakespeare comedy of exile, love and disguise in the forest of Arden, will open to the critics April 14. The Public Theater production, which began March 25, was originally scheduled to open April 7.
Lorenzo Pisoni as Oliver and  Bryce Dallas Howard as Rosalind  in As You Like It.
Lorenzo Pisoni as Oliver and Bryce Dallas Howard as Rosalind in As You Like It. (Photo by Michal Daniel)

The cast needed more rehearsal, said a spokesperson. When the Public decided to remove the too-expensive Two Noble Kinsmen from its roster, and replaced it with As You Like It, the theatre gave director Erica Schmidt a call. She and her cast were given only three weeks to reassemble the production, Schmidt said.

In addition, the staging has a different Rosalind, Bryce Dallas Howard, than it had had in its previous two incarnations. Angela Goethals had played that central, cross-dressing role in the past.

The other five actors in the cast are Drew Cortese (as Lebeau, Duke Frederick, Duke Senior, Silvius), Johnny Giacalone (Touchstone, Jaques), Jennifer Ikeda (Adam, Phebe, Audrey), Lethia Nall (Celia, William) and Lorenzo Pisoni (Orlando, Oliver).

Howard (film director Ron Howard's daughter) is perhaps the best known of the sextet. She came to the public's attention last summer as a haughty, flirtatious teenager in Alan Ayckbourn's House and Garden at Manhattan Theatre Club.

Erica Schmidt has conceived the production. Schmidt piloted a very different work, the spoof Debbie Does Dallas, at the Jane Street Theater last fall. That show recently closed. Schmidt's other credits include Spanish Girl at Second Stage Uptown, Romeo and Juliet at the Outdoor Garage and The White Devil at The Directors Company. This As You Like It began life at the 2000 New York International Fringe Festival. Angela Goethals starred as the classic Shakesperean heroine Rosalind, who dons a man's clothes to win the love of Orlando. The show won the FringeNYC Overall Excellence Award for Schmidt and transferred to a brief Oct. 10-29 run at 111 Times Square.

Schmidt told Playbill On-Line that she, Goethals, Lorenzo Pisoni and Johnny Giacalone, who all acted in the original Fringe production, went to college together and are part of a company called the Liars' Club. "Angela is scrappy," said Schmidt of the most famous member of the group (Goethal established herself as a theatre actor as a teenager in The Good Times Are Killing Me). "All of us carried our costumes to the parking lot every night. Angela is the biggest team player."

After the run at 111 Times Square, the piece was given a few industry readings and was optioned by several producers (include the Araca Group, who would later hire Schmidt to work on Debbie Does Dallas). Also in the audience was a representative of the Public Theater, who gave the show a slot in the company's "New Works Now!" reading series in 2001.

The Public Theater website describes As You Like It like this: "Using only their own indefatigable imaginations and the infinite imagery of Shakespeare's language, a young company of six actors takes on all 15 roles. First presented in a parking lot on the Lower East Side, this fast paced physical tour-de-force captures the raw energy and beautiful simplicity of one of Shakespeare's most clever comedies."

Schmidt has a taste for avant garde approaches. With Debbie Does Dallas, she helped transform a famous X-rated movie into a tongue-in cheek musical. And her Romeo and Juliet, which also starred Goethals, was staged in the outdoor garage space next to the Present Company Theatorium on the Lower East Side's Stanton Street. The stark, utilitarian facility is walled on four sides with a cement floor and no ceiling.

For ticket information, call (212) 239-6200.

(L-R) Lethia Nall as Celia, Bryce Dallas Howard as Rosalind, Lorenzo Pisoni as Orlando in <i>As You Like It</i>.
(L-R) Lethia Nall as Celia, Bryce Dallas Howard as Rosalind, Lorenzo Pisoni as Orlando in As You Like It.