Shakespeare’s "As You Like It" is a pastoral comedy, tracking young lovers as they woo and wed in the rustic Forest of Arden. The play also contains more opportunities for music than any other Shakespeare script, and the Davis Shakespeare Festival’s production comes with so many melodies, it almost qualifies as a musical.
Traditional productions hark toward Elizabethan-style melodies, with someone playing a lute. But in this more contemporary interpretation, musician and composer Timothy Nutter nods to the British folk rock of the 1960s and ’70s — an approach that blends nicely into this romantic comedy.
The tunes kind of recall Nick Drake’s breathy vocals and guitar, but in a more optimistic vein. In one scene, the music compliments the young Orlando, who is smitten by love at first sight, and starts decorating the forest with his verses. Orlando pines for the fetching Rosalind, who spends most of the play disguised as a smooth-cheeked young fella named Ganymede.
Director Rob Salas and costume designer Caitlin Cisek make the most of this transformation by giving the girl-who’s-pretending-to-be-a-guy a striking costume and a flashy haircut that will remind you of the gender-bending David Bowie, if you came of age in the 1970s. Or — if you’re coming of age now — androgynous actress Ruby Rose.
Actress Andrea J. Love traces an arc as Rosalind. When she first meets Orlando, she’s as giddy as a 13-year-old, with comic results. But gradually, the relationship deepens — director Salas blends in little illustrations of personal growth, giving this well-balanced production a certain glow.
And throughout, Tim Nutter weaves in music that is at once wistful and nostalgic, enhancing the mood of this thoughtful fall production.
The Davis Shakespeare Festival production of As You Like It continues through October 14 at the Veterans Memorial Theater in Davis.
Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled costume designer Caitlin Cisek's name. It has been corrected.