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'As I Like It' Review- Before Kim Kardasian or Paris Hilton There Was Amanda Eliasch

The lights are suitably low key and the stage is set as assorted
audience members shuffle into the Macha theater in West Hollywood
for 'As I Like It,' Lyall Watson's at times forthright, at times
vivacious semi-autobiographical adaptation of the life of English 
playright and femme extraordinaire, Amanda Eliasch, who in effect
defined the modern template of what any self-respecting, transatlantic
jet-setting, entrepreneurial socialite  ought to be.(She's the current
editor of Genlux magazine and a freelance Vogue photgrapher).

Writer and Cast: Amanda Eliasch, Elizabeth Karr, Lisa Zane and Charles Eliasch

Under John Alan Simon's capable direction, the proceedings begin
in the theme of a confessional, Eliasch played by Elizabeth Karr,
sheds light on a desultory upbringing, the child of a prominent
absentee father (Daily Mail foreign correspondent Anthony Cave Brown,
in fact it was at his behest that this play come into being, following
a reunion  at the age of twenty two, and a challenge issued for
her to pen a 5000 word dissertation by the end of the weekend). The
scars borne by numerous years of father/daughter enstrangement being
the most prominent feature of this brutally candid play and indeed her
turbulent later life. Other pivotal characters sharing the stage
during that formative period, included her tyrannical, dog trainer mother
scathingly described as a foul smelling nymphomaniac, and an angelic
looking spoilt brat of a brother who after flunking school grades, once
too often, ended up becoming, in her own words, Coco the clown.

The entire production is punctuated with excerpts of opera sung by
Lisa Zane, undoubtedly denoting shifting perspectives and time frames
as Eliasch's whirlwind narrative takes the audience on a rollercoaster
ride through the highs and lows of her duplicitous love affairs and
marriages, one of which was to a millionaire acquaintance of Prince
Andrew, culminating in a prolonged stint with the Royal Academy of
Dramatic Art and an internship with the Moscow Theatre Company.
(The brainchild of her thespian Romanian housemaid.)

The stage setting by designer Trip Haenisch is simultaneously evocative
of a static, slushy boudoir in some English upper middle class version
of purgatory, one in which time seems perpetually frozen, and where Eliasch
holds court attended on hand and foot by her vaguely malevolent manservant
Sebastian (played by real life son and accomplished virtuoso pianist,
Charles Eliasch).

Hovering omnipresently larger than life in the background, yet conspicuous by
his absence is the father she barely knew, guiding the trajectory of her life 
and her loves from beyond the grave. Indeed the final rendezvous with him was
at an American mental hospital where he was singing 'Rule Britannia,' and
upon closer inspection, she noticed the uncanny likeness of father and daughter's
hands, and thus was born within her the recondite mission, 'to find a man
with hands like my father's.'

'Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with a song
still in them, was a noteworthy observation made by Henry David Thoreau
and by the same token, a similar sentiment could be brought to bear on their
sons and daughters, even if they do manage to belt out a swan song before
the final curtain call. Amanda Eliach's autobiographical play takes the
audience on a spontaneous tour of those epochal years of the Thatcherite
revolution when a whole nation, and an old and venerated class system was
being redefined by the shifting global and political landscape. A time
when privatization decimated British industry, 'get rich quick' was the
mantra of the nouveau rich, and Dallas and Dynasty ruled the airwaves.

 

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