The Chicago Shakes’ Beatles-centric ‘As You Like It’ is pretty fabulous

“As you like it” –   

If you’re going to see the Chicago Shakespeare Theaters’ lively, Beatles-infused production of “As You Like It,” then be well on your way.

Even better, come early so you do not miss the preshow. Beginning about 10 minutes before the curtain, it unfolds like a pro-wrestling tournament (with accompanying gimmicks and theatrical), a nod to the fight that begins William Shakespeare’s hilarious comedy.

Given how much time characters spend wrestling with emotion, misplaced affection, and sibling relationships in this frothy celebration of love, opponents facing inside a ring are an appropriate prologue to the production that emerged on Canada’s Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival.



Orlando (Liam Quealy) serenades his disguised love Rosalind (Lakeisha Renee) in The Beatles-infused "As you like it" runs through Dec. 5 at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

Orlando (Liam Quealy) serenades his disguised love Rosalind (Lakeisha Renee) in The Beatles’ “As You Like It,” which runs through Dec. 5 at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
– Lent by Liz Lauren

In particular, adapter / director Daryl Cloran incorporates 23 Beatles songs into its production. Most of the songs fit the story, which mostly sticks to Shakespeare’s original, with one exception (more on that later).

Cloran sets the piece in the 1960s, sunny developed by Carmen Alatorre’s kaleidoscopic costumes (complete with fringe vests, love pearls and bell bottom) and Pam Johnson’s set with a groovy VW bus that serves as the backdrop for the first-class band.

Most of the action takes place in Arden Forest, where the aging flower child and deposed Duke Senior (Kevin Gudahl) have established a municipality with his loyal masters after his usurper, younger brother Frederick (also played by Gudahl), banishes him from court. Shortly afterwards, Frederick Seniors’ daughter, Rosalind (Lakeisha Renee), who disguises herself as the boy Ganymede, travels to Arden accompanied by her beloved cousin Celia (Melanie Brezill) and quipster Touchstone (Kayvon Khoshkam).



Adapter / director Daryl Cloran's production of "As you like it" pairs William Shakespeare's comedy with 23 Beatles songs.  It runs through Dec. 5 at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

Adapter / director Daryl Cloran’s production of “As You Like It” pairs William Shakespeare’s comedy with 23 Beatles songs. It runs through Dec. 5 at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
– Lent by Liz Lauren

There meets Rosalind / Ganymede Orlando (a disarming Liam Quealy), who fled the court shortly after meeting Rosalind to escape his inexplicably hostile brother Oliver (Tony Carter). Confused with Rosalind after their brief meeting, Orlando accepts Ganymede’s offer to advise him to woo her.

Meanwhile, the love-sick Silvius (Michael Dashefsky) pursues the indifferent shepherd Phoebe (Heidi Kettenring), who only has eyes for Ganymede, while Touchstone talks to the sweet but obscure goatherd Audrey (Lachrisa Grandberry).

On the periphery is Jacques (the terrific Deborah Hay), a melancholy sage whose appearance is reminiscent of Andy Warhol and whose despairing demeanor suggests a person who is very aware of the fall that awaits us all. Prior to a painful performance of “The Fool on the Hill,” Hay’s “Seven Ages of Man” is the monologue driven by Gudahl’s expressive reaction. The production’s most significant scene, it concludes with “Let It Be”, a blessing to the broken hearts, sweetly sung by student Michael Kurowski at Friday’s performance. Kudos to Cloran and music tutor Ben Elliott for making such a moment.



The Forest Lords of Arden: Austin Eckert, left, Jeff Kurysz, Adam Wesley Brown, Michael Daniel Dashefsky and Kurt Schweitz play The Beatles hits in Chicago Shakespeare Theaters production of "As you like it," edited and directed by Daryl Cloran.

The Forest Lords of Arden: Austin Eckert, left, Jeff Kurysz, Adam Wesley Brown, Michael Daniel Dashefsky and Kurt Schweitz play The Beatles hits in Chicago Shakespeare Theaters production of “As You Like It”, adapted and directed by Daryl Cloran.
– Lent by Liz Lauren

Tracks like Quealy and Renee’s charming “Can’t Buy Me Love”, Brezill and Carter’s “Good Day Sunshine” duet and Quealy’s dizzying “Do You Want to Know a Secret” – made the audience clap, sway and sing along.

That said, not all songs work. And while Cloran has a solid foundation in Brezill, Grandberry, Hay, Kettenring and Quealy, not all cast members can carry a pop tune. Then there is Rosalind’s speech – conspicuous by its absence – urging Orlando to take a pragmatic response to matters of the heart. One wonders what the engaging Renee could have done with the character-defining speech from the most reasoned Rosalind, who rightly notes that “men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not out of love.” She’s right. And let’s face it, we need more than love. Still, I wonder, wouldn’t it be great if love is all you need?

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Location: Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Navy Pier, 800 E. Grand Ave., Chicago, (312) 595-5600, chicagoshakes.com/

Showtimes: 7.30pm Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; 1 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday; 3 and 8 pm Saturday; 14.00 Sunday to 5 December. Also at 18.30 21 November and at 14. 26 November. No performance on November 25

Playing time: Approximately 2 hours, 45 minutes, with a break

Tickets: $ 49- $ 90

Parking: Validated parking in the adjacent Navy Pier garage

COVID-19 Precautions: Evidence of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test, identification and masks required

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