Saturday, October 07, 2006

Love's Labour's Lost (Great Lakes Theatre Festival)


‘LOVE’S LABOR’S LOST,’ which is now appearing in repertory at the Great Lakes Theatre Festival, is one of Shakespeare’s lesser plays. In fact, many scholars believe that it should not even be listed in the Bard’s portfolio.

Written in the mid-1590’s during the London plagues, when theatres were closed for fear of spreading diseases to those who assembled in large groups, it is conjectured that Shakespeare was commissioned to write ‘LOVE’S LABOR’S LOST’ for a small social gathering. One of Shakespeare’s earliest works, the script has been described as “A laughing play about wry couples, rhymed couplets, and the impossibility of securing true love in two hours.

The script is written in regular meter and rhyme and is filled with lots of puns which often go right over the heads of modern day viewers due to their lack of present day references.

The story concerns the King of Navarre, who, along with his trio of lords, has sworn that for three years they’ll forswear sleep, food, and the company of women in favor of pious study. So what are sworn men to do when a beautiful Princess and three attractive attending ladies arrive on diplomatic business? Ah, that’s the rub!

The Great Lakes Theatre Festival’s production is creative and a pleasant, though not a compelling experience. Director Drew Barr has inserted lots of schticks and gimmicks to spice up the goings-on. The issue is not Barr or the performers, it’s that the play itself is just not compelling.

Tom Ford as the King and David Anthony Smith, Lynn Robert Berg and Matt Lillo as the lords attending the King, are all fine. Andrew May is his usual hysterical self as Don Adriano De Armado, a fantastical Spaniard, who not only looks but acts like Salvador Dali. Jeffrey C. Hawkins properly overdoes the role of Costard, a clown. Laura Perrotta, is fine as the Princess of France. Julie Evan Smith, Julie McKay and Laura Welsh are charming as the ladies in attendance to the Princess.

The sets, the costumes, the lighting and the sound are all well done.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: GLTF does all it can with ‘LOVE’S LABOR’S LOST.’ Unfortunately, it’s not enough to make a mediocre script into a great production. For those who are interested in seeing a Shakespearean play that is not often performed, the GLTF production is a good choice because this is about as good as it will get.