Love's Labor's Lost
early language rich comedy by Shakespeare directed by Jonathan Michaelsen
July 7-July 22, 2017
The IU Summer Theatre’s Shakespeare comedy for this year is Love’s Labour’s Lost. It’s a title that’s easy to remember, but I think that I may not be alone in never having read or seen it. Directed by Jonathan Michaelsen with a skilled cast it’s a very funny play with a lot of laughs and my evening seemed shorter than the two plus hours of the performance.
The youthful King of Navarre, Jason Craig West is intent on cleaning up his act and reforming his friends. He’s proposing a rigorous three year Pilgrimage to Parnassus with lots of study, little sleep, less food and no contact with the distractions of women. His pals: Longaville, Nicholas Jenkins; Dumaine, Ryan Claus, and Berowne, Grant Goodman are reluctant to agree. Berowne is the most eloquent in denial, but he along with the others signs the pact.
In the next scene the Princess of France, Ashley Dillard with her three ladies: Rosaline, Julia Klinestiver; Maria, Erin Logan, and Katherine, Courtney Relyea-Spivak arrive. As explained by their officer Boyet, Jenny McKnight, diplomatically trousered and a mustachioed to act as a go between, it’s not a pleasure trip which might be ignored, but a formal diplomatic mission requiring contact and consideration. The men are in an indefensible position with this formal wedge into their educational retreat and their defenses, in quite delightful and complicated ways crumble.
Love’s Labour’s Lost is early Shakespeare and he’s besotted with language. Nearly half of the lines are rhymed. Characters write elevated sonnets and compose heart felt letters. Henry Woronicz plays Don Armado, a colorful Spanish knight with his winsome page Moth, Tara Chiusano. The knight is always good for a few malapropisms. Justino Brokaw as Holofernes the schoolmaster, is always spouting mixed up Latin, along with insights into the changes that were going on in English during Shakespeare’s time. Even the country swain Costard, Devin May gets a bit of language education about the difference between a grudging remuneration and a generous gardon.
Costard is a key player in a letter switch as a note from Don Armado to the dairy maid Jacquenetta, Erin Logan again, instead goes to Lady Rosaline and a note from Berowne for Rosaline goes to Jacquenetta. Major misunderstandings ensue. The guys simply have to all confess that they’ve been pretending to stick by their vows and wooing on the sly.
Emboldened by their confessions they come up with a plan that’s so dramatically weird that it would have been perfect for the film Animal House. They costume themselves as a troop of masked Russians to further court the ladies. The women get wind of the plan put on masks of their own and switch favors so that their identities are confused. The athletic Muscovites dance and cavort in a wonderfully funny scene to the nicely done music from Costard, Moth and the Constable. The ladies succeed in their masquerade, humiliate the fellows and have a good laugh.
Eventually things do get sorted out and with a bit of boasting on the part of the women and chagrin on the part of the men. Things are made up and the lovers are sorted out. I’m a bit hesitant to tell you the ending, because there is a bit of a surprise to it. Remember that this play’s title is Love’s Labour’s Lost. News arrives that the Princess’s father has died. The wooing is put aside or at least suspended for a year. The Princess and the ladies require a year of penitence and good works from the men before they’ll reconsider. It takes us back to a pact a bit like the one that began the whole play.
Alana Yrczyk’s garden setting with the nicely ironical placement of a statue of Cupid in the middle works nicely. Emmy Phelps graceful summery dress for the gentlemen and the ladies contrast well with the flamboyant costume for Don Armado and farcical Muscovite costumes. CC Conn’s sound choices and placement flow and comment on the comedy. Tony Stoeri’s lighting was a subtle support.
The IU Summer Theatre production of Shakespeare’s Love’s Labor’s Lost is going to make those of us for whom this was a first time experience wonder why it isn’t done more often. It plays in repertory with Jennifer Le Blanc’s gracefully faithful adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion through July 23.
You can find this review, a review of Persuasion and other reviews and interviews at WFIU.ORG/Arts
At the theatre for you, I’m George Walker