After a few months of doing this, I have come to realize that there are three kinds of Shakespearean productions in New York City. For lack of an official taxonomy, let's call them the Pros, the Competents, and the Amateurs.
The Pros are obvious. There is a thick line between them and the Competents. The Pros perform on or near Broadway (or at BAM). You can tell a Pro by the ticket price, and by the sets, and usually by the actors too, whose names are recognizable from the stage and screen.
The Amateurs are pretty obvious, but it usually takes until you actually get to the theater to realize that you are in fact in the presence of The Amateurs. The first tip that you are in for an Amateur is that the theater is mostly empty, and those few hardly souls who do make it out are clearly friends and family. An Amateur will often run for one weekend. The actors speedthroughtheirlineslikethisasiftheywereanxiousfortheplaytobeoverandthecastpartytobegin.
The cast bios in the playbill for an amateur typically say something like "Melissa (Juliet) is sooo excited to be in her first production with the Madcap Theatre Company!!!! She wants to thank her extra special muffin Tom for all his support!!!!"
The Competents, meanwhile, will never be mistaken for The Pros, but it would be foolish to lump them together with The Amateurs as well. The actor bios may be just as thin, but on stage, they seem to be actually enjoying themselves. The production is confident, and take risks, that may not always succeed, but at least are taken. These are the real gems of this endeavor seeing all of Shakespeare in a year, because they delight and surprise, as in, who knew there could be such great theater on 11th Avenue?
The Blackfriars' production of As You Like is a member of this last group. As You Like It is a slightly slight play about sibling rivalry and female friendship, but this production pulses with life. The minor characters--Le Beau, played with campy originality by Gregory Couba, and Touchstone, played Dinh Doan--move the production along. Jacques, a lord attending to Duke Senior, is played by Peter Dobbins with wonderfully morbid, languor. His, "All the world's a stage," speech is emitted with a sigh, as if its a play he cant wait to see over.
Perhaps Dobbins through has sat through a few plays by the Amateurs.