AS YOU LIKE IT, Velvet Willies, at the Chopin Theatre. There's no getting around it: Shakespeare's comedies are too long for contemporary audiences. And traditional palliatives--updates, revisionist readings--often do more harm than good. So it's heartening to see the Velvet Willies straightforwardly attack the gayest play since gay came to Stratford-on-Gayvon, focusing on the play's language and ideas rather than high-concept adaptation. An excellent cast moving at a good clip pulls off the Bard's potentially most boring work without recourse to gimmick, pretension, or ideology.
Meredith Bell and Michael Moran are every bit as flexible and charismatic as the roles of Rosalind and Orlando require, plowing through their characters' ludicrous faux romance with utter assurance. Emi Clark and Amelia Rose Lorenz work overtime in glittering supporting parts, and Christopher Prentice is wonderfully understated as that most modern of Shakespeare's characters, the melancholy Jaques. Ray Kurut's pretty, barely there lighting is the perfect companion to the setless stage, and Stephanie Bloink's charming costumes confound the script's arch implausibilities. Credit director Jeff Harnish for making it all click.