AS YOU LIKE IT, Goodman Theatre. In Shakespeare's comedy a forest is the neutral playground for the romantic encounters that eventually bind exiled lovers Rosalind and Orlando. In this shelter for simplicity and innocence, artificial privilege defers to natural merit.
Michael Maggio's bumpy Goodman Theatre revival transplants the corrupt ducal court to our citified east coast circa 1880; the Forest of Arden becomes the rugged foothills of Missouri. The musical backdrop is a mellow-to-rambunctious folk score--the show's brightest facet--by Miriam Sturm and sound designer Michael Bodeen. This clean concept buoys an already merry play with clap-happy square dances and lifts Shakespeare's lyrics into full-blooded country ballads. If set designer John Culbert's sliding Japanese panels never quite convey the Gilded Age, his pastoral cyclorama feels like--well, a month in the country.
Ranging from bumptious to polished, the acting is less persuasive. Mark Espinoza's Orlando smiles too much and yearns too little; his passion for Karen Raymore's energetic, ineloquent Rosalind is cold and by the numbers. Ronald Keaton's Touchstone, a vaudevillian ham, loses as many laughs as he gets, and though David Darlow's sardonic Jaques (a bitter Confederate veteran) adds weight, there's sadly little hilarity for him to puncture. Only Lisa Tejero's keen-eyed Celia and Kevin Theis's doggedly devoted Silvius escape the flatness of these perfunctory performances. At 200 minutes, Goodman's revival taxes the butt more than the brain. Worse, it seldom touches the heart.