Everyone loves the major comedies of William Shakespeare. But they often don’t the credit that they deserve because the plots get convoluted or the humor gets lost in translation into the 21st Century. But not so with the American Players Theatre presentation of Love’s Labour’s Lost. Director Brenda DeVita has pushed Love’s Labour’s Lost from simple comedy to slapstick to farce…and the audience loved it…I don’t remember ever hearing as much laughter…giggles…or titters as those elicited in response to this play.
And it probably helped that the story here is more direct though not particularly anymore sensible than other Shakespearean comedies…but knowing who the characters are and how they arre expected to act made it all work the more. But DeVita’s wily insertions of cultural touch points like pratfalls and physical comedy reminiscent of ‘professional’ wrestling, some moves that referred back to Steve Martin’s wild and crazy guy and a moment of Hans and Franz style, we want to pump you up, made for easy laughter.
One stand out here…Josh Krause as Dull, the constable…a character to watch as he did his best swaggering Barney Fife and toward just a bit of Charlie Chaplin…a magical character that I imagine would be easy to overlook in other theaters.
And another key yet not out front character is Costard, a groundskeeper, nimbly played by Jeb Burris. At first taken into custody by Dull for flaunting an edict from the King by ‘communing’ with the lovely Jaquenetta, Dull becomes the middle man in much of the plot as the plots transpires! One of his key tasks is to circumvent the king’s edict by secretly delivering missives from the gentlemen of the king’s court to the visiting ladies who are accompanying the Princess of France. And we all knew that hi-jinks were afoot when the stationary for each was a different color…and so they were all mis-delivered. Oafish clumsiness as written or a wily slyness as played by Burris? I am leaning toward the latter!
Other amazing tidbits that build and support the laughter? That would include Nathaniel, a curate played to the hilt by David Daniel as a pompous preening and ever overreaching in his ultimately silly and laughable discourse with Holofernes. And Holofernes allows Shakespeare a chance to take an on target potshot at academics and in that role, James Ridge knows exactly where and how far to stretch to make it just absolutely hilarious.
And one of the most popular ‘interludes’ is the attempt by the King and his retinue to fool their French guests by appearing unannounced at the ladies camp in Russian garb and performing a number of ‘Russian dances’…and who can’t love the Russian bear in their company. And the unsurprised ladies make great sport of the gentlemen and put them in their place.
And one other sidebar to mention…Triney Sandoval is just a delight as Don Armando, a knight, professor, and guest in the court of Navarre. And is his mispronunciation of English a result of his inexperience with the language or a bit of word play on his part or that of the bard? It comes across as high comedy in Snadoval’s hands.
And no, I am not ignoring the principals. But in this presentation I think some of the most hilarious bits of the play come from the effective use of the minor and supporting characters…we know whence the King and Princess will go and what they will do.
But yes, I need to mention that Nate Berger was regal and intellectual as the King of Navarre but he wasn’t always too quick to see when his friends were making sport of him or when the Princess of France was getting the better of him. And the Princess of France? Phoebe Gonzalez was everything you expect from a princess and she was one with her retinue and ready to make sport of the King as well as fall in love with him. Amazing.
And a number of back stage specialists need to be recognized.
There are a ton of situational changes in the story line that require a lot of costume choices and costume changes. So Holly Payne, costume designer, and Jeannette Christensen, assistant costume designer, deserve immense credit for dozens of elegant costumes for all characters and all situations. Their efforts made the story telling here even more magical!! And my hats off to the actors who managed to make numerous changes and keep the flow of the play going.
And then, again, the amazing work of Brian Cowing, choreographer, and Jeb Burris, fight director, needs to be applauded. The various scenes where characters are dancing…or gesticulating wildly in the presence of unseen others…and the dueling scene between Don Armando and his page Moth…were ballet…enchanting…and smooth as silk.
Love’s Labour’s Lost is being presented in The Hill Theatre and runs in repertory through October 2nd, 2022. If you want more information or want to order tickets, follow this link: LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST
Sidebar: There’s Always Room For Jello
[sorry if I overdid the photos]