Effervescent as a summer tonic, “As You Like It” arrives on the Upper East Side, where the Royal Shakespeare Company has set up shop in the Park Avenue Armory.
They’ve brought not only five works by the resident playwright but a replica of its famed Courtyard Theatre at Stratford-Upon-Avon. The vertiginous space is now taken up with steep balconies and an orchestra that is actually a bit below stage level, the result being a great intimacy with the actors.
That’s a good thing in the case of Shakespeare’s ever-astonishing comedy. “As You Like It” manages to juggle mismatched lovers, Sapphic cousins, exiled noblemen, rustic vaudeville and ruminations on time and the stages of man, all with equal verve and no small dose of melancholy. That it happens in the Forest of Arden, where all these elements criss-cross and intertwine, add to the growing sense of wonder and merriment.
We have, at the center, Orlando (the tremendously appealing Jonjo O’Neill), fleeing his greedy brother while searching for his beloved, Rosalind (the irresistible, sexually flexible Katy Stephens). She, in turn, has disguised herself as the male Ganymede who ends up instructing Orlando on how to woo...Rosalind.
Strolling through the action is Jaques (Forbes Masson, with rusted hair and dark blue eye shadow, a hilarious, guitar-strumming wet blanket) and the lecherous fool Touchstone (Richard Katz, long of limb and arching of eyebrow).
Director Michael Boyd, working on Tom Piper’s almost bare white multilevel set, and with choreographer Struan Leslie, heightens the play’s ants-in-pants electricity. Yet the themes of displacement, longing and the search for identity simmer below the surface, adding reflective depths to those glistering surfaces. (Gerard)
“As You Like It” runs in alternating repertory through Aug. 14 at Park Avenue and East 67th Street. Information: +1-212-721-6500; http://www.lincolncenterfestival.org
‘Silence! The Musical’
After seeing “Silence! The Musical,” a parody of the 1991 hit film “Silence of the Lambs,” you may walk out of Theater 80 in New York’s Lower East Side sheepishly humming Hannibal Lecter’s elegy to olfactory desire and Clarice Starling’s private parts.
The title of the number is hilarious and, sadly, too vulgar to appear here.
The plot hews closely to the movie, with visual gags galore: Clarice (Jenn Harris) is an FBI trainee who interviews the incarcerated cannibal psychiatrist Lecter (Brent Barrett), hoping for help finding a serial killer who skins women.
Harris plays Clarice as a clueless, humorless southern ingenue with an exaggerated lisp. Barrett’s grandiose Hannibal recalls both Anthony Hopkins’s Hannibal and the phantom in “Phantom of the Opera,” which Barrett has played in Las Vegas.
Brothers Jon and Al Kaplan have written a grand score that’s high-spirited and zany. Hunter Bell’s book is an amusing skit, which at nearly two hours with intermission could be trimmed.
What director and choreographer Christopher Gattelli does with Scott Pask’s sets -- a few clothes racks and knickknacks -- is remarkable, whether it’s in a scene of Clarice jogging or the lambs being silenced. The supporting cast members deftly play countless characters, including those lambs, in white ears and legwarmers.
The show debuted at the 2005 New York International Fringe Festival, where any number of these sorts of spoofs have come and gone. This one may be the most absurd of them all. It wears its wrongness well. (Boroff)
Through Aug. 13 at 80 St. Marks Place. Information: +1-866-811-4111; http://www.silencethemusicalnyc.com
What the Stars Mean: **** Excellent *** Very Good ** Average * Not So Good (No stars) Avoid
(Jeremy Gerard and Philip Boroff are critics for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are their own.)
Jeremy Gerard in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Philip Boroff in New York at email@example.com.