I absolutely love the Northwest Classical Theatre Company's motto: "Content over Concept." Translation: Don't obscure your text in grandiose directorial vision or pandering rewrites. Trust that Shakespeare and Chekhov knew what they were doing. The popular conceit that classic works must be given facelifts in order to appeal to modern audiences insults both the intelligence of those audiences and the talents of the actors involved. Frequently, all that's necessary in order to make a so-called "classic" widely accessible is a deep commitment, on the part of the theater company, to furrowing out the meaning of every line. If the actors understand what they're saying, the audience will, too.
This concept is effectively borne out in the Northwest Classical Theatre Company's crowd-pleasing rendition of As You Like It. Shakespeare's cross-dressing comedy is presented here with a light touch and an irreverent sensibility that drive home a point all too often missed with the Bard's lighter works: This shit is supposed to be fun. The script is rife with bawdy innuendo, all of which the cast hits hard, with genuinely funny results—I haven't laughed 'til I got teary at any show in recent memory, much less at a script that was written 400 years ago.
The dashing Butch Flowers(!) is pitch-perfect as Orlando, the love-struck youth who, exiled from his home, spends his days mooning about the forest, writing love letters to the duplicitous Rosalind. Richard Reiten could not be funnier as Orlando's wild-haired, ranting servant, and Kevin Price's snooty, posturing Charles is the definition of "priggish."
I saw the show in the Terry Schrunk Plaza at SW 3rd and Jefferson, where the players had to compete with bus mall traffic and the occasional police siren. The noise constraints proved more strain for some actors than others—Melissa Whitney's hilariously butch Rosalind was hoarse by the end of the show, though she powered through it admirably. The show is free, and you can always leave during intermission if it's not working for you. What've you got to lose?