Monday, August 29, 2016

“Love’s Labor’s Lost” a feast for the eyes and fun for the soul

One of the positives in the decision not to have three outdoor plays running in repertory during the Old Globe’s summer season is evident on the Lowell Davies Festival Stage as this year’s plays will bear witness.  Arnulfo Maldonado’s set design gave background to an era update in a hospital housing war-wounded fighters in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”, least seen on the outdoor stage. With this change, set designers have carte blanche with their creative juices rather than a background that they would have to work around.

In stark contrast to the bloody mess created in “Macbeth”(that was fitting for the play), John Lee Beatty’s charming and lush scenic gardens with lavish landscape surrounding the stage, a very large nude/Cupid? looking over her shoulder at the child behind her and topped off with the visual of a long stairway leading to a wrought iron gate outside, is truly an eye-popper. It helps also to have Jason Lyons spot on lighting shining on the merriment of the oh so obvious fiasco set out as the premise of another of Shakespeare’s earlier and seldom produced comedies, “Love’s Labor’s Lost”.   

Imagine three young men in their what, late teens, early 20’s swearing an oath to study, fast and chastity for three years? That’s what the King of Navarre (a fine Jamie Orsini), a scholar himself asked his three young students to do. Foolish young men, they. They lined up to sign the pledge; the reluctant Lord Berowne (Kieran Campion), among to first to break the vow Longaville (Nathan Whitmer), and following close behind Dumaine (Amara James Aja). Furthermore,  “No woman should come within a mile of the court”

Cast of Love's Labor's Lost
But just as the signatures on the pledge begin to dry the Princess of France (a charming Kristen Campion) and her ladies arrive in Navarre wishing to speak with the King on the matter of Aquitaine.  Because of the decree he and his students signed, the women have to make camp outside the court in a tent set up by the king leaving them vulnerable to the eyes and desires of the King and his young students.

As we will learn, all fall madly in love with one or the other women while trying to conceal it from the rest. The main plot revolves around how they can get out of this mess, and find temporary happiness. Here’s a spoiler. They disguise themselves as Russians dancers and prove themselves, once again to be not only foolish, but pretty naïve as well.

Makha Mthembu, Patrick Kerr, Stephen Spinella and Jake Millgard
Silly as their frolicking may be and more as background play to set up his comic characters, Shakespeare has introduced us in this early comedy to some of his most delightful and scene stealing clowns, a la commedia del arte that made an evening more fun than it started out to be.

Whether for our amusement or possibly our reward for having to sit through the boyish and boorish nonsense of watching four handsome, virile and eligible young men wiggle out a deal they never should have made in the first place, the sub plot with most of  its merriment going to his clowns are the best part of this production.

Credit goes to director Kathleen Marshal, (well known for her directing and choreographing Broadway musicals) choreographs this one in perfect balance; part Shakespeare’s language, part terrific acting and part excellent execution of all of the above make this one a winner.

Don Adriano de Armado (Triney Sandoval) as described by Shakespeare as a "fantastical Spaniard”, and well he might be, and he also demands the most attention with his loud voice. Armado is the caricature of the courtly lover who tattles about Costard (a beyond excellent Greg Hildreth) because he’s chasing after the country gal Jaquenetta (Makha Mthembu), Armado’s wannabe squeeze.

Costard the clown sets all the nonsense into motion when he accidentally switches love letters he’s asked to deliver to the respective love interests of Armado and Berowne and all hell breaks loose.

Triney Sandoval and Greg Hildreth
It doesn’t end here though. Schoolmaster Holofernes (“Angels In America” Stephen Spinella) speaks in lists. (“This is a gift that I have, simple, simple—a foolish extravagant spirit, full of forms, figures, shapes, objects, ideas, apprehensions,
motions, revolutions.”)

His sidekick the village cop Dull (Jake Millgard) make interesting contrasts. Dull is well…Dull. Last but not least is curate Sir Nathanial (perfect Patrick Kerr) a fan of Holofernes and is impressed by his speech, Dull, not so much.

"All's Well That Ends Well" but not after the sad news that the Princess's father died prompting an early exit of the good maidens with some promises were almost made but who knows.  

Michael Krass’s costumes are period perfect, lush and fitting the character. Sten Severson’s sound design is perfect for the out door setting. Original music by Taylor Peckham lends some softness.

Hats off to Marshall and her excellent cast enabling another of Shakespeare’s silliness to bring some light and warmth into what might have been a longer evening than anticipated.

Its good fun for the summer's end.

See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through Sept. 18th
Organization: The Old Globe
Phone: 619-234-5623
Production Type: Comedy
Where: 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park
Ticket Prices: Start at $20.00
Venue: Lowell Davies Festival Stage

Photos by Jim Cox

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