We gave it an A
Forget the Hamptons or the Jersey Shore. The Royal Shakespeare Company is spending its summer vacation at the Park Avenue Armory, a beautiful 19th-century building on Manhattan’s Upper East Side with a cavernous main hall once used for military drills. There, in conjunction with the Lincoln Center Festival and The Ohio State University, the British troupe is presenting six weeks of performances of five Bard classics, in repertory. The first production, As You Like It, is absolutely first-rate. But the onstage performance almost pales compared to the stage itself — and the theater that houses it. For inside the Armory’s main hall the RSC has constructed a 230-ton replica of the original Globe Theatre, complete with a thrust stage and two upper tiers of (surprisingly comfortable) seating. The auditorium is spectacular, and it generates a warm intimacy that greatly enhances the performance.
Director Michael Boyd exploits the specially built theater’s advantages in his production of As You Like It, which centers on the romance between Orlando (the charming Jonjo O’Neill), a gentleman on the run from his jealous older brother, and Rosalind (Katy Stephens), who poses as a boy and escapes to the Forest of Arden after she’s banished by her uncle, the usurping duke of the kingdom (James Tucker). Actors enter from ramps in the stalls — as well as through trapdoors in the stage. Boyd also moves the action swiftly between scenes, providing one of Shakespeare’s sturdier comedies with the fleetness it needs. There’s a real spark between O’Neill and Stephens, though the latter is not entirely convincing as a boy. The supporting players are more than up to the challenge of the text, and the comic sidekicks are particular standouts: Richard Katz as the tall, woolly-headed court fool Touchstone, Sophie Russell as the slutty but unsteady-in-heels goatherd Audrey, and Forbes Masson as the melancholic balladeer Jacques. A?
(Tickets: 212-721-6500 or lincolncenterfestival.com)