As You Like It

The Royal Shakespeare Company at the Park Avenue Armory on Saturday, August 6, as part of the Lincoln Center Festival.

Shakespeare's go-to plot device of women passing themselves off as men always requires some suspension of disbelief, but As You Like It, which features the strangest example of the ruse, requires more suspension than most. Not only does Orlando, who met and became infatuated with Rosalind when she was a lady of the court, not recognize her when she's presenting herself as a boy named Ganymede, he also accepts Ganymede's eccentric suggestion that he woo Ganymede as if the boy were Rosalind to prove his love for her. To be fair, Orlando is supposed to be naïve and uneducated (that is, in fact, why Rosalind is interested in correcting some of his sillier ideas about love under her guise as Ganymede), but honestly, is he blind too?

Of course this is a comedy, not naturalistic drama, and the Royal Shakespeare Company makes Rosalind's subterfuge—and by extension her relationship with Orlando—more compelling than in any other production I've seen. The performances are lovely, for starters, but beyond that, the production as a whole creates a magical, increasingly optimistic mood—like sunlight slowly breaking through clouds. Under that spell, accepting the absurd premise doesn't seem so hard, and besides, it's worth the leap.