How much you appreciate -- or not -- the cultural phenomenon known as "The Sixties" will predict how well you groove on Little Lake Theatre's new production of As You Like It. Shakespeare's pastoral comedy is awash in a hodgepodge of songs, clothes and other visual references from mod to psychedelic to early disco (i.e., the mid-'60s to early '70s), with enough tie-dyed hippiedom to saturate a Woodstock. Sometimes the visual metaphors are more mixed than illuminating, but several of the songs supply such spot-on commentary that it's hard not to laugh.
This particular Shakespearean outing is the one about a deposed duke living in a rather bizarre forest, his daughter the requisite lady in reverse drag. Lovers meet and are wrenched apart, but by play's end there are so many people living happily ever after that it's easy to lose score. The plot is rather beside the point. The real point is non-stop nonsense, both rhetorical and physical. If one gag fails, there's another one zinging by to hit your funnybone.
This is a character play, and the most colorful character is actor Gregory Caridi, taking full advantage of the multidimensional "fool," Touchstone, dispensing wisdom as well as wit. Generally, though, it's the ladies who shine brightest in the spotlight. Jena Oberg, as Rosalind, indeed looks the part of an Elizabethan heroine, and she broadly (pun incidental) overplays the slim-legged male poseur. Anna McGee, as cousin and confidante Celia, is a perfect mix of flower-child princess and the Lady of Shalott while providing a sensitive and sensible contrast to Rosalind's emotional roller-coaster. In comic roles, Patricia Gena Samreny has few lines but great bits of overwrought business as Touchstone's romantic interest, Audrey, and Laura Paterra is seductive as the disdainful, and then disdained, Phoebe.
Director Art DeConciliis has left few stops unpulled in this As You Like It, mixing period music within the play and using the '60s "hits" (including some real groaners) as segues and punctuation. A round of applause, too, goes to costumers Carol Lauck, Kathy Orr and Kimberly Pharp, for reminding us just how silly we used to look.
Sure, some parts drag a bit and the lingo is occasionally a mouthful for community theater, but mostly this is a fun bit of froth. And hey, who knew this Shakespeare guy was so topical -- writing about same-sex marriage and environmental awareness, and offering a discourse on the meaning of "is"?
As You Like It continues through Nov. 3. Little Lake Theatre, 500 Lakeside Drive (off Route 19), Canonsburg. 724-745-6300 or www.littlelake.org