Circling the bowl


As You Like It: The Big Flush


Written by Amelia Bassano Lanier, a.k.a William Shakespeare

Directed by Stephen Wisker

Presented by John Hudson & The Dark Lady Players (

Midtown International Theatre Festival (

Equity showcase (through August 3, 2008)

Review by David Mackler


According to that not-always-completely-accurate source of internet truth, (open-edited by the public at large), the 16th/17th century poet Amelia Bassano Lanier has been accepted by the UK-based Shakespearean Authorship Trust (headed by 2008 Tony Award winner Mark Rylance) as a top contender for the real writer behind the curtain that William Shakespeare has been standing in front of for 400 years. This decision was based on a 2007 production by The Dark Lady Players of ‘the world's first allegorical production of any Shakespearean play’ (their claim), A Midsummer Night’s Dream.


Said Dark Lady Players have now presented at the Midtown International Theatre Festival their take on As You Like It, and subtitled it The Big Flush because, per their press release, on an “allegorical level….(As You Like It) contains a Jewish toilet joke written by England’s only Jewish poet”, said Amelia Bassano Lanier.


Built on this rickety foundation, The Big Flush version of As You Like It has a running commentary – not written by Lanier, or Shakespeare, or even Francis Bacon – that is not unlike the alternate audio track on a DVD that gives way too much information, provided by people who are as over-prepared as a college debating team, and who believe that everyone will be converted to their way of thinking.


Consequently, The Big Flush plays very much like a graduate student paper played for laughs. It seems that everything in As You Like It refers back, in one way or another, to shit. And biblical allegory. That would be quite enough, but director Stephen Wisker has paced it all at breakneck speed, so only the occasional gag lands. It’s funny, in the scheme of things, to have the woman doing some narrating (and later playing Touchstone), Kirsta Peterson, give birth to a large poster of Shakespeare that another character then speaks through; it’s usually hard enough for a cast to make early 17th-century jokes funny (sex jokes are always sure-fire, it’s the topical humor that’s rough); but a pseudo-scholarly treatise on shit, Jews, feminism, Jesus, etc. that’s presented as fait accompli is like a climber scaling the White Cliffs of Dover with Scotch tape on his shoes for traction.


Now all of what’s presented may be true. Lanier may have written Shakespeare, every toilet reference may be accurate, and every clue the Dark Lady Players decode may be God’s truth. But the best bits of this presentation were the glimpses of As You Like It that peeked through. Kate Murray was a fine Rosalind when given the chance, and Ashley Diane Currie well matched her as Orlando. Sarah Jadin had good moments as both Phoebe and Audrey, and the aforementioned Peterson was clear and concise throughout. Everyone was well-costumed, and everyone threw themselves into what they were doing wholeheartedly.


There may be a convincing argument to be made about Lanier, toilets, the bible, etc. – there may even be a comedy in it. And why not?  But it might work better aimed at more than grad students.


Also with Jen Browne, Kate Murray, Donna Lazar, Emily Moment, Alexandra Cohen-Spiegler, Daniela Dakich, and Lindsay Tanner.


Box Score:


Writing: 1

Directing: 1

Acting: 1

Sets: 1

Costumes: 1

Lighting/Sound: 1


Copyright 2008 by David Mackler


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