Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 20, 2018

REVIEW: Shakespeare & Company, Love's Labor's Lost

Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, MA
through August 18, 2018
by Joan Mento

Photo by Eloy Garcia
A youthful Shakespeare penned this early comedy and youthful actors performed a hilarious romp in Shakespeare & Company's production. Love's Labor's Lost is a feast of language that presents a challenge to directors and actors since topical references and archaic language dominate a thin plot line. Director Kelly Galvin cut the script not only to secure a 90-minute production but also to make outdated allusions and complex puns understandable and entertaining. She accomplished this feat by effectively using the outdoor setting, the physicality of the agile actors, and techniques of commedia.

The outdoor space made a natural setting for the Princess of France and her three ladies. They were to be "lodged in the field" because the King of Navarre and his three couriers had just taken a vow to study, fast, and shun women. A flat wooden oval served as a stage. A tent (doubling as a dressing room) was behind the stage up a small hill. The rest was wide-open grass flanked by trees.

The expansive setting also aided the energetic actors in their running, dancing, rope pulling, and sword fighting scenes-all devices to better the audience's understanding of the convoluted language and play on words. Commedia characteristics were portrayed by the Spanish Don Armado in his exaggerated accent and courtly gestures. Further comedy was portrayed in Luke Haskell's clowning of Costard's "remuneration" speeches as well as Dull's constant use of malaprops.

At first sight of her the King of Navarre has fallen in love with the Princess of France and his courtiers with her ladies. The men break their oath of shunning women by each writing a love sonnet to his chosen lady. Consequently, oilier the hilarious slapstick way the men try to conceal their broken vows, they implore the witty Berowne played  admirably by David Bertoldi (with his expressive vocals and strong stage presence) to  justify their actions. Berowne says it is not natural for young men to shun love, for their study now is in women's eyes and beauty.

At one point in this fun tilled battle of the sexes, the men disguise as Muscovites to woo the women. Forewarned, the women wear masks and amotdiei' woman's jewels so that the men pledge love to the wrong lady. Here Shakespeare employs actual "Masque” movements as each pair goes off for a private conversation, two by two like a formal dance. This play has the seeds for later Shakespearean comedies such as Mid Summer Night’s Dream and Much Ado About Nothing. The Pageant by the Nine Worthies in LLL  is similar to the play of Paramus and Thisbe put on by the workmen at the end of Mid Summer. The witty banter between Berowne and Rosaline looks forward to the wordplay of the more complex Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado.

The playful romp of this production culminates in a joyful battle with water gums and balloons. At the height of the conviviality, the messenger Marcade enters announcing the death of the Princess's father. The tone shifts to somber. The men must postpone their courtship with promises to do atonements for a year. Then the women will return. The production ends with a mournful song in acappella followed by a stately dance by all the actors.