As You Like It
The Royal Shakespeare Company's six-week residence at the Park Avenue Armory officially kicked off last week with "As You Like It," the first of five Shakespeare plays to be performed together in repertory.
And while Michael Boyd's production of the pastoral comedy is a pure delight, the real thrill lies in seeing the 230-ton, 975-seat recreation of the Globe Theatre that has been constructed expressly for this short run.
"As You Like It" begins with Rosalind (Katy Stephens) and Orlando (Jonjo O'Neill), who fall in love at first sight, being kicked out of Duke Frederick's court. Joined by her cousin Celia (Mariah Gale) and the clown Touchstone (Richard Katz), Rosalind dresses up like a man for protection and heads to the Forest of Arden, where her recently deposed father is also in hiding.
Boyd, artistic director of the RSC, takes an explicitly violent approach to the first half of the play. During the wrestling match between Orlando and Charles the wrestler, Orlando smashes his opponent's head against a white wall so aggressively that blood is spattered along it. Even when the setting shifts to Arden, all the men carry rifles for protection.
A major shift in tone occurs after intermission: The chilly weather clears and the romantic dating rituals commence. In a cute touch, Orlando's love notes to Rosalind, which he hangs on trees, are displayed throughout the theater and lobby. You can even take one home as a souvenir.
Stephens makes for an unusually sad and mature Rosalind. But while pretending to be the male Ganymede, she turns confident and cocky. She goes so far as to sport a pencil-thin mustache and insert a dildo into her pants.
Forbes Masson portrays the introspective Jacques as a moody and sensitive singer-songwriter, even accompanying himself on guitar. Katz also makes a strong impression as Touchstone, delivering all his lines at high energy and costumed in a straitjacket.
If you go: "As You Like It" plays at the Park Avenue Armory through Aug. 14. 643 Park Ave., 212-721-6500, lincolncenterfestival.org.