THE DISCOURSE on homosexuality is a major part of current American culture, and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing. Thus, it is all the more noteworthy that a recent production of As You Like It that ran at the Brooklyn Academy of Music earlier this year, directed by Sam Mendes and cast with a bi-national troupe of American and British actors, seems to go out of its way to suppress the homosexual dynamics that are inherent in Shakespeare’s play. An eerie sense of homophobia comes across as this production unfolds.
As You Like It offers two key opportunities for exploring contemporary notions of gender and desire: first, through the relationship between the characters Rosalind and Celia, which is set up as a same-sex pairing of intense and unorthodox intimacy; and second, through the theatrical device of cross-dressing that’s enacted by Rosalind, the heroine and mastermind of the play’s action.
Throughout the play, Shakespeare drops telling clues about Rosalind and Celia’s feelings for each other.