You know it’s finally summer when it’s time to spend hours in line for Shakespeare in the Park. Yes, the season is upon us: As You Like It opens Saturday! Mark Lamos, former artistic director of the Hartford Stage Company, is directing a cast that includes Brian Bedford, Lynn Collins, Jennifer Ikeda, Richard Thomas, and James Waterston in the classic tale of family quarrels, love and deception in the Forest of Ardenne. Unless you can pay $100 for a reserved seat, or you have a sucker for a boy/girlfriend who will wait in line for you, you’ll want to get to the Delacorte or the Public bright and early on the day of the show; free tickets are distributed starting at 1pm for 8pm shows and the lines get a little crazy, though with no big celebrities in this production it might be less so. Of course, sometimes standing in line is half the fun anyway because of the interesting people you meet, but you have to be ready for it. A musical adaptation of The Two Gentlemen of Verona begins in mid-August if you’d rather wait; when it was done in the early 70’s it was a big success and muscled its way out to Broadway for the Best Musical Tony. Gothamist is a fan of just about anything free, and this is a tradition you just don’t miss.

In other news, the Downtown Urban Theater Festival opens tomorrow. There’s only one chance to see each show, with 12 playing over the course of 9 nights. As in the past (this is its 4th year) the offerings in the DUTF run the gamut. This Friday, for example, catch Cyndi Freeman’s Inside Cherry Pitz, about a girl who wants to be a drag queen like her dad, but then enters the wacky world of Elvis impersonation. Or there’s James Gillard’s Pendemonium, the first show, which features a writer-addict who takes the audience on a “psychological excursion” into the world of substance abuse; Gillard won the 2003 DUTF Audience award, so it will be interesting to see what this new work does. And the final play sounds fantastic – The Bronx Witch Project sends up Latina life, “crossing through cults and cultural borders,” by Nuyorican performer Alba Sanchez. DUTF isn't all about diversity, but it gives a venue to artists who may have more difficulty getting out there, so it's a great place to catch unusual rising talents.

Finally, far from both Shakespeare and cults you may check out what’s showing at the WorkShop Theatre. Pineapple & Henry recently opened on the main stage; it’s a new play by Linda Segal Crawley about the intersections of love and life with career ambitions over the course of 60 years at the Brooklyn street intersection named in the title. It begins in the present with a baker who is taken with both a truck driver and a Ukrainian architect, then rewinds back to the Jazz Age in the same place, when a barmaid at a speakeasy is the object of three men’s competing affections. In the WorkShop’s jewel box theater is a new play by Steven Fechter, who had an earlier play that became the movie The Woodsman, which starred Kevin Bacon and got raves. The Mentee is a dark comedy about three people bound by a poet’s suicide. With Fechter’s talent and the WorkShop company’s strong support of new shows, this could well launch onto their main stage, or another main stage, in the future.

Details: As You Like It opens on June 25 and runs through July 17 at the Delacorte, in Central Park (enter at 81st on the west side or 79th on the east). Shows are Tues.-Sun. at 8. Tickets can also be obtained on the day of the show at the Public Theatre, 425 Lafayette.
The Downtown Urban Theater Festival runs June 22-July 2 at the Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce St. Shows are all at 7:30pm. Tickets are available through Theatermania.
Pineapple & Henry shows Wed.-Sat. at 8pm at the WorkShop Theatre Company, 312 W. 36th St., 4th Floor East. Tickets are available through Theatermania. The Mentee has a very short run, just June 23-25 at 8pm, at the same place.