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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Like It in the Park

Optimist’s free Shakespeare show

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Optimist Theatre returns this summer with another free, outdoor Shakespeare production. This time around, Optimist stages the show in Kadish Park’s amphitheater overlooking the downtown Milwaukee skyline. The production is As You Like It. The show shares the Milwaukee night with fireworks, the audio tapestry of passing traffic and various bits of music drifting in. It’s such a beautiful experience that the show itself becomes almost incidental to the fact that you’re actually watching it.

There are some really good performances here, though. Clayton Hamburg is charmingly magnetic as love-struck Orlando desperately trying to prove his love for Rosalind. And though Kristin Hammargren doesn’t manage to render much depth as Rosalind, she’s got a charisma that supports the role quite well.

Featuring the short and athletically built Hamburg as Orlando and the toweringly mesomorphic fight choreographer Christopher Elst, the wrestling scene at the beginning of the play was exquisitely executed and a great deal of fun.

Other strong performances pepper the production. Todd Denning is cleverly comic as the jester Touchstone. He has a solidly whimsical comportment in the role with excellent physical and vocal comic timing. Alison Mary Forbes is delightfully cast as Amiens. Forbes delivers brilliantly to the mood of the show in song and spirit, even managing to breathe some much-needed life into a couple of scenes that were otherwise lacking.

Optimist Theatre’s As You Like It continues through July 21 in the Kadish Amphitheater. All shows start at 8 p.m.