Playing games with the opposite sex has been around for centuries. The battle of man versus woman is a classic tale. Shakespeare's Love's Labor's Lost explores this conflict from many angles. Judith Shakespeare Company presented an unabridged version of the show that brought the play to life with great skill and meticulous attention to detail.
The plot of Love's Labor's Lost follows four men: the King of Navarre (Brian Linden), who is the leader; Berowne (Vince Gatton); Longaville (Derrick LeMont Sanders); and Dumaine (Bujan Rugova). They sign a pact to increase the efficiency of their studies -- they will eat only once every other day, sleep only three hours a night, and most importantly avoid all women. Their rigid routine is interrupted by the arrival of the Princess of France (Ivanna Cullinan) and her three women: Rosaline (Natasha Yannacanedo), Maria (Michelle Kovacs), and Katherine (Jovinna Chan). Of course, the four men fall for the four women. However, they have sworn off women. The other subplot follows a constable (Vanessa Elder) capturing a clown, Costard (Ross Williams), who has recently romped with a country wench (Gwentyth Reitz) who, unfortunately for him, is enamored with a fantastical Spaniard, Don Adriano de Armado (Philip Hernandez).
Back in the main plot, the lovers begin sending their loved ones sonnets. Eventually it becomes obvious to them all that they are smitten, so instead of ignoring the ladies, they decide to woo them. They visit them in disguise as Russians (performing a hilarious Russian dance), but the women get wind of this first from their attending lord Boyet (Michael Urie), so they, too, disguise themselves with masks. In addition, they switch the gifts they received so each man woos the wrong girl. When they come back, the women chastise them for their lack of fidelity, jokingly. After making up, there is a performance by the rest of the players, Holofernes (Jane Titus) and Sir Nathaniel (Joseph Capone), as well as Armado, his page (Sheila Ostadazim) and Costard.
The play is interrupted by sad news of the Princess's father's death. The guys drop all pretenses and propose; however, the women feel the men still have some growing up to do. They decide to spend one year and a day apart, and then all will end happily, after a year of longing.
Judith Shakespeare Company did a great job with a tiny studio space. There were chairs scattering the stage area, as well as a piano. As Jeremy Wall, the jazz pianist/ composer, played some peppy, mysterious overture music, the cast marched on. Wall provided cute scene-change music, as well as some luscious jazz ballads for sung text. Having a pianist was a nice added touch to the timeless text.
The cast was generally good (hence giving them all a mention!), if not all phenomenal. The standouts were the old players -- Titus and Capone. Titus took every line she had and made it shimmer with comedic talent. She figuratively let her hair down and was dynamic and darling at the same time. Capone aptly provided a straight foil to her kookiness. Other than that, Gatton and Urie did fine jobs with their roles -- Gatton delivered his soliloquies with skill. Urie brought an energetic charm to his duties as the Princess's lord. When they quarreled together, there was captivating chemistry.
The show obviously had a good director. Zipay brought the best out of her actors. The staging used what could have been a cramped studio space in sensible and spacious ways.
Love's Labor's Lost is a delightful comedy. Judith Shakespeare Company produced a delightful production with an enchanting ensemble.
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Copyright 2003 Seth Bisen-Hersh