Director Erin Woods sets the play in 1968 France, and when scenes switch to the Forest of Arden, the setting is Rishikesh, India. The Arden forest is supposed to be a more exotic setting than Duke Ferdinand’s court, where the play opens, thus India would seem more mysterious than France.
Orlando (Kyle Whalen) flees the family estate after a dispute with his brother, Oliver (Jeremy Eoff). Meanwhile, Rosalind (Lindsay Pittman) is banished from the court of usurper Duke Ferdinand (Sam Bearer), and Celia (Rachael L. Barry), Ferdinand’s daughter, flees with her beloved cousin, Rosalind (now disguised as the boy Ganymede), who has become infatuated with Orlando, who’s also enamored of her. (Whew.) They all arrive in India and encounter characters of varying repute.
Pittman and Barry gave notable performances in the top shows of 2013. Pittman played Laura in Lyric Theatre’s The Glass Menagerie, and Barry was impressive as Sally Bowles in Reduxion’s Cabaret. They have a certain sisterly chemistry in this play, even while wearing Playboy bunny suits in a party scene. Pittman seizes the day in the second act when Rosalind, disguised as Ganymede, surreptitiously woos Orlando while pretending to be Rosalind.
The point Woods is trying to make by setting the play in India isn’t clear. It does give her a chance to display Flower Power-era costumes (by Chloe M. Chafetz), including love beads and miniskirts. Consistent with RTC’s style, the play is staged with few props: a carpet (nonflying), fruit baskets, pillows and hanging lanterns.
The show gains a little life in one scene. Phoebe — a “starlet” here, a shepherdess in Shakespeare’s script — becomes enamored of Ganymede, while the simple shepherd Silvius loves Phoebe.
Ganymede chides her: “Down on your knees and thank heaven, fasting, for a good man’s love!” Played by Sarah Henry, wearing false eyelashes that the most outré drag queen would envy, Phoebe drops to all fours into what choreographers of sexual intimacy for the stage call a “cow crawl” (that is, with a concave spine) and advances on the headstrong Ganymede.
The production includes Beatles-heavy period music, ranging from early-Beatles (“Twist and Shout”) to post-Beatles (“My Sweet Lord”) and ukulele-accompanied “Tiptoe Through the Tulips,” made famous by one of the ’60s odder oddities, Tiny Tim. Additionally, Cartic Vengkatraman composed original songs for the show and performs on guitar and uke.
The new theater is a sharp-looking, congenial space with slightly more seating and better amenities than the old Broadway. The stage doesn’t seem that much larger, but the higher ceiling works to the venue’s advantage. RTC directors will have to be cognizant of iffy sight lines. I saw much of As You Like It from the waist up.