Dogged actors battle the heat in 'As You Like It' 

bnails/AYLI-col.jpg" width="150" align="right" vspace="10" border="0" />Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park has achieved its silver-anniversary season. Any theater company that lasts a quarter of a century deserves kudos, so here's a tip of the tricorne to the Oklahoma Shakespeareans.

One would expect OSP to open its 25th season a bit more spectacularly than with the lethargic production of "As You Like It" it is now presenting, but in these financial times, it may be all they can do to put a full season on the boards in some form or fashion.

No one wants to lower expectations, so now is the time for directors and designers who can create theater on a budget to flourish. And Shakespeare's plays, as much or more than those of any other playwright, are eminently effective, because the Bard writes the spectacle right into the language of the script.

First of all, the acting in this production has its pleasing moments. The success of any staging of "As You Like It" depends heavily on the performance of the actor playing Rosalind, especially when she is disguised for much of the play as the young man Ganymede. OSP's Rosalind, the young Aimee Crowther, does not disappoint. She and Shae Orrick, who plays Celia, Rosalind's cousin and compatriot, are fine.

It would not be an OSP show without the always-reliable Doug Brown, who plays the loyal servant, Adam. According to his program biography, he has been with OSP for more than 20 years, but, still, all that gray hair must be makeup.

While we're celebrating Old Home Week, it would be a good time to cite the performances of OSP veterans Mike Waugh, who is notable as Touchstone, and J. Shane McClure as the usurping Duke Frederick.

Back to the overall effect of the production. The pedestrian staging by director Kathryn McGill is not particularly inspired or inspiring. The show fails to grab the audience's attention, and is not very funny for what is supposed to be one of Shakespeare's more well-regarded comedies.

But McGill must have help from her designers. Jason Foreman's set piece of generic arches, columns and staircases looks as if it will be with us for the rest of the season. No problem with that; it looks adaptable. Robert A. Pittenridge's costumes are a vague mix of more or less 19th- and 20th-century styles "? a halfhearted combination of costume shop and thrift shop, mostly the latter.

It may not have helped that the reviewed performance was on one of those recent sweltering, 100-degree days. Conditions at the theater made even the murky, malodorous moat that surrounds the Water Stage look inviting. Plus, it was on a night when the Harley-Davidson convention was in town. While the bikes roared by one side of the outdoor theater, the Oklahoma City fire and police departments seemed to be testing sirens on the other side.

Talk about a star-crossed production. Give the cast credit, however. They pushed doggedly forward. 

As You Like It stages 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday by Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park at the Myriad Gardens Water Stage, 100 Myriad Gardens.

"?Larry Laneer

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