by Beki Pineda
LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST – Written by William Shakespeare; Directed by Brandon Fox. Produced by the Colorado Shakespeare Festival (presented at the Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre, CU campus) through August 8. Tickets available at 303-492-8008 or cupresents.org.
It is generally thought that Shakespeare wrote LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST around 1594 during a time of great personal success. His history plays and first two comedies had given him a certain degree of notoriety and security. So he decided to cut loose and enjoy himself with a somewhat original script full of the puns, quips, and word play that he (and society at the time) enjoyed. Almost like jazz, LLL is full of riffs on the ways different words can be used and misused to great effect. He will take a word and let it soar into poetry – both profound and comic. After you see this production, you will never use the word “remuneration” without smiling.
A relatively simple plot serves as the hanger upon which the language is draped. The King of Navarre (Marco Robinson) and his three buddies (Seth Dhonau, AJ Voliton, and David Derringer) take a vow to give up women for three years in the pursuit of fasting and learning for the betterment of their souls. In true sitcom fashion, all this happens just before four beautiful women from the French court show up on business. They are relegated to a camp outside the castle to which the men travel to learn their business. The inevitable happens and the vow – taken reluctantly in the first place – goes out the window. Flirtation abounds among these characters and the servants of the court until a rather surprising ending. Instead of allowing a “happily ever after” for these eight lead characters, the women are called back to the French Court upon the death of their King and now they must all wait through the year of mourning to see each other again. This unusual ending was probably a concession to the play’s first audience – the Court of Queen Elizabeth I, by then 61 and still waiting for an appropriate suitor herself.
Director Fox has found every instance of humor in the script and found a way for his actors to convey it to the audience. While a strong ensemble cast with each player contributing mightily to the finished product, there are standouts. Michael Bouchard as the clown Costard stops the show several times with his meandering musings on a phrase or word. Rafael Untalan plays Don Armado, the visiting Spanish knight as a pompous conceited buffoon who seeks to stop the romance between Costard and Jaquenetta (Anastasia Davidson), a beautiful dairymaid. The Princesses (Desiree Mee Jung, Brynn Tucker, Amber Scales and Aziza Gharib) bring beauty and intelligence to their performances. Scott Coopwood plays Boyet, their attendant and confidante.
One of the joys of Shakespeare is in seeing how it will be set and interpreted. This production is staged as a memory play starting after WWI when Moth (Anthony Adu), a page to Armado, returns to the overgrown and abandoned Court and remembers what it was like before the War. In his mind, he returns to the happier days which are then acted out, until he once again dons his military backpack and moves on. The Edwardian period in England suits the light-hearted fun of the script and enhances its dream-like qualities. It also makes us wonder what happened to the young people who were so carefree then. Where are they now?
A WOW factor of 8.5!!