As You Like It

Matrix Theatre



Since 1993, the LA Women’s Shakespeare Company has turned the tables on tradition, reversing the original concept of male actors playing the Bard’s female roles by casting only women in their productions. This way, LAWSC continually attracts incredibly talented performers eager to pencil in sideburns, adopt a wide-legged swagger, add a well-placed sock, and find a new kind of artistic empowerment.

It’s always intriguing to see what these smaller-framed, lighter-voiced thespians do to bring Will’s mightiest to life, but this time tackling As You Like It, now playing at the Matrix, LAWSC’s spin on things is even more interesting, not only because of the already gender-bent nature of the material, but because the Forest of Arden has astral-projected into the American West of the 1880s.




Lisa Wolpe directs with an assured hand, cleverly adding period music and dance to grace a magically versatile roughhewn set by Mia Torres which, accompanied by the faint clink of spurs, transforms from frontier town to open plains to cathouse-saloon. Decked out in Christina Wright’s splendid cowboy drag, suspension of belief happens with surprising alacrity thanks to such stalwart LA stage royalty as the ever-formidable Fran Bennett, who bellows in perfectly modulated Shakespearean tones as both Dukes; the durable Mary Cobb, almost unrecognizable as the bewhiskered Corin; and Brady Rubin as Adam, turning the aged servant into a resident Gabby Hayes.

Among many unswervingly committed performances, Wolpe is riveting in her simplicity as the melancholy Jaques, Kimberly Aarn crafts a suitably dashing Orlando, Katrinka Wolfson teases effortlessly as Celia, Kate Roxburgh is a slickly Cockney Touchstone, and Emme Geissal makes an auspicious LA stage debut as the Chaplin-faced Kid. 


Still, this is a case of As You Could Almost Like It, as the Achilles’ heel of this formidable presentation is glaringly obvious: Although Abigail Rose Solomon has her ducks in a row as producer of the piece, as leading lady she doesn’t yet have the chops to stand alongside this veteran ensemble, substituting flailing arms and alternately joyful and pained facial reactions for acting. Rosalind is one of Shakespeare’s most challenging roles and, for anyone dreams of one day playing such a juicy character, the tools needed to make it happen must also be there, right alongside the passion to bring it to fruition.

As You Like It plays through June 3 at the Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Av., LA; for tickets, call (800) 595-4849.

TRAVIS MICHAEL HOLDER teaches acting and theatre/film history at the New York Film Academy’s west coast campus at Universal Studios. He has been writing about LA theatre since 1987, including 12 years for BackStage, a 23-year tenure as Theatre Editor for Entertainment Today, and currently for As an actor, he received the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Best Actor Award as Kenneth Halliwell in the west coast premiere of Nasty Little Secrets at Theatre/Theater and he has also been honored with a Drama-Logue Award as Lennie in Of Mice and Men at the Egyptian Arena, four Maddy Awards, a Award, both NAACP and GLAAD Award nominations, and six acting nominations from LA Weekly. Regionally, he won the Inland Theatre League Award as Ken Talley in Fifth of July; three awards for his direction and performance as Dr. Dysart in Equus; was up for Washington, DC’s Helen Hayes honors as Oscar Wilde in the world premiere of Oscar & Speranza; toured as Amos “Mr. Cellophane” Hart in Chicago; and he has traveled three times to New Orleans for the annual Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, opening the fest in 2003 as Williams himself in Lament for the Moths and since returning to appear in An Ode to Tennessee and opposite Karen Kondazian as A Witch and a Bitch. Never one to suffer from typecasting, Travis’ most recent LA performance, as Rodney in The Katrina Comedy Fest, netted the cast a Best Ensemble Sage Award from ArtsInLA. He has also been seen as Wynchell in the world premiere of Moby Pomerance’s The Good Book of Pedantry and Wonder and Frank in Charles Mee’s Summertime at The Boston Court Performing Arts Center, Giuseppe “The Florist” Givola in Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui for Classical Theatre Lab, Ftatateeta in Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra at the Lillian, Cheswick in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at the Rubicon in Ventura, Pete Dye in the world premiere of Stranger at the Bootleg (LA Weekly Award nomination), Shelly Levene in Glengarry Glen Ross at the Egyptian Arena, the Witch of Capri in Williams’ The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore at the Fountain, and Dr. Van Helsing in The House of Besarab at the Hollywood American Legion Theatre. As a writer, he has also been a frequent contributor to several national magazines and five of his plays have been produced in LA. His first, Surprise Surprise, for which he wrote the screenplay with director Jerry Turner, became a feature film with Travis playing opposite John Brotherton, Luke Eberl, Deborah Shelton and Mary Jo Catlett. His first novel, Waiting for Walk, was completed in 2005, put in a desk drawer, and the ever-slothful, ever-deluded, ever-entitled Travis can’t figure out why no one has magically found it yet and published the goddam thing.