Love's Labor's Lost is one of Shakespeare's most verbal plays, the wordplay and topical puns dazzling with bawdy wit and melancholy humor. It is also one of his least-performed works, perhaps because it has been perceived to be too abstruse for its own good, riddled with jokes that may have been political zingers in 1597 but mean absolutely nothing today.
Whatever the reason, it is a shame that it is rarely seen, for despite the dense language it is possibly the Bard's most elegant and mature work, a wonderfully funny and realistic portrait of the never-ending battle of the sexes that still rings true today, regardless of the political climate. (Which, truth to tell, also never really changes either.)
The intrepid Boomerang Theatre Company has to be lauded for making the decision to produce the work and perform it outdoors in various park venues throughout the city. If they weren't completely successful in making a case for the work, the sheer audacity and youthful high-spirits that infuse the production did make it a more-than-worthwhile afternoon of theatre.
Granted, the valiant cast had much to overcome, fighting the heat, the traffic noises, and the obtuse pedestrians occasionally wandering right through the action -- and they all performed with unruffled aplomb and unflagging energy. But director Marc Parees was unable to give the work a consistent tone, chiefly because of the inconsistent abilities of his cast. In general, the men were stronger than the women, and the result was a production that seemed more like a series of scenes arcing back and forth between the sexes without ever finding and exploiting the bawdy heart beating breathlessly at its center. The best work came from Trevor Jones as a brainy but sexy King Ferdinand of Navarre, Glenn B. Stoops as viral, passionate Biron, and Meghan Shea as a coolly sensual Princess of France. Evan Zes was a hoot as a linguistically challenged Don Armado, and the "critically unnoticed" Philip Emeott impressed with his hilariously lewd Costard. More problematic were the Rosaline of Marissa Duricko and Jaquenetta of Siobhan Towey: Duricko, while maintaining a contagiously sly grin throughout, never really developed any heat between her character and Biron, essential to the proceedings, and Towey's (or was it Parees's?) decision to play Jaquanetta as a chica from el barrio was questionable at best, embarrassing at worst.
Carolyn Pallister's costumes were a ragtag assemblage of styles and colors that seemed thrown together to get the job done, and added to the uncertain, inconsistent tone of the production.
However, all of those criticisms aside, when the production worked, it worked well enough to throw its problems into sharp bas-relief. The aforementioned Jones, Stoops, and Shea all had moments of brilliance; there were some genuine, laugh-out-loud staging bits (any scene involving Emeott and Zes); intelligent cuts were made to bring it in under two hours; and there was an undeniably zesty ebullience brought to the piece that was hard to resist.
So despite some very real problems with casting, pacing, and tone, it was nevertheless a joy to see a staged production of Love's Labor's Lost, if just to experience the work live instead of on the page.
(Also featuring Erika Bailey, Patrick Dobson, Justin Krauss, Peter Morr, Wil Petre, and Mike Sears.)
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Copyright 2002 Doug DeVita