Oct. 14, 2013
Love’s Labour’s Lost has always struck me as one of
Shakespeare’s most interesting comedies. It has some obvious similarities with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in as much as
a group of less-than-effectual actors put on some entertainment for royalty in
the Fifth Act, and they are interrupted and jibed during their performance by
said royalty. But A Midsummer Night’s
Dream ends with a wedding. Several weddings, actually. Love’s Labour’s Lost does not, though it seems to be heading in
that direction for basically the entire play. As Berowne says, “Our wooing doth not end like an old play;
Jack hath not Jill.” In fact, the end of the play brings some tragic news.
The Coeurage Theatre
Company’s new production of Love’s
Labour’s Lost, directed by Ted Barton, is being staged in the 2nd Stage
Theatre in Hollywood. This is one of those small (49 seats) black box theatres
that has a built-in intimacy. In fact, to get to the bathroom you have to cross
the stage. However, there is a staircase in the upper stage right corner,
opening the stage up a bit.
For the first scene,
the set was quite simple – two small benches covered in black cloth, and
something between them covered in burgundy cloth. And right away we get a
mixture of classic and contemporary images when the four men (Ferdinand,
Berowne, Longaville and Dumaine) enter the stage by descending the staircase.
Two carry candles, while the others carry modern electronic devices including
an iPad. The wardrobe is decidedly modern. The four men are dressed in jeans,
dark shirts and glasses. All but Berowne wear button-down shirts; Berowne’s is
slightly more casual, a black jersey, immediately setting him apart, if only
subtly. (Later they lose the glasses and don suits.) When they sign their
pledge to study for three years while abstaining from women, they do so by
pushing a button on the iPad.
There is definitely a
playful aspect to this production. Costard (Chris O’Brien) is dressed in a
colorful costume, including green striped socks, sandals, shorts, a hat, and
headphones. Constable Dull (Brian Abraham) is dressed in something resembling a
safari outfit, with tan shirt and white hat. Both of those performances are
quite good, though at times Costard strays into Jim Carrey territory (as during
his reading of “Are you not the chief
woman? You are the thickest here”). Costard sings his last line of the first scene – “sit thee down, sorrow” – after putting his headphones on (as if
he’s singing along with the tune). Then later, when Berowne has that same line,
he too sings it, referring back to Costard (a very nice touch).
There is a set change
after that first scene, revealing an upper level and a trellis with vines and
flowers. Also, the cloth is removed, showing a fountain with a statue of Cupid
between the two benches. That statue is referred to often throughout the
production, like in Berowne’s speech that ends Act III.
There is a lot of
great humor in the scene with Armado (Jonas Barranca) and Moth (Ian
Littleworth), particularly regarding the simple math problem. And when Moth
mentions Samson, he jumps on Armado’s back on the line “on his back like a porter.” Elitia Daniels is perfect as Jaquenetta
– adorable, flirtatious and funny. She’s particularly wonderful in Act IV Scene
ii when she hears the letter.
When we meet the four
women, they are all dressed in pale dresses and summer hats. Of the four women,
the strongest is Sammi Smith as the Princess. Julianne Donelle is beautiful as
Rosaline, but somehow lacks some of the spirit and spunk of that character.
When the men enter to greet them, three of them are looking at their electronic
devices (the exception, of course, being Berowne – one more way this production
sets him apart).
Most of the cast is
quite good, but certainly Michael Faulkner stands out as Berowne. It’s a
character an actor can do a lot with, which sometimes can be dangerous as it
can be easy to overdo it. But Faulkner does an excellent job in finding the
humor without overselling it. Sometimes it can be a simple line that stands
out, like his deliberate, slow (and very funny) reading of “Nay, then will I be gone” (Act II Scene
i). He’s also wonderful in the scene when he asks Costard to deliver his
letter. And in that famous speech from Act IV, I love his reading of “They are the books, the arts, the academes.”
Two other actors that
stand out in this production are William Reinbold as Nathaniel and Patrick
Wenk-Wolff as Holofernes. Reinbold is hilarious when saying “only sensible in the duller parts.” And
Holofernes holds a small chalkboard, using it for the “sorel” bit, which ends up being a delicious bit of stage business.
There is also some
great physical humor in the scene where it is revealed that all four men are in
love, particularly on the part of Berowne and Ferdinand dropping their love
letters and trying to retrieve them without being seen. John Klopping as Dumaine
also gets a lot of laughs in that scene, as he reads his letter poorly, drawing
odd looks from the other three.
Most of the modern
devices are dispensed with fairly early on, except for the headphones. Also, when
Moth enters the third act singing, he sings his own version of the Sex Pistols’
“God Save The Queen.” And later there is a Star Wars reference, when a bit of
the “Imperial March” is played on saxophone.
There is a nice,
serious moment when Holofernes is mocked during the Worthies scene, preparing
us for the serious end. The messenger appears behind the audience near the end,
and so as a result the lights go up over the audience while the Princess
receives the bad news. This is such an interesting choice, because the effect
is that we have interrupted their fun. We are included in her sorrow, yet not
in the group’s joy, for the lights go down again when Armado calls for a song.
The one element of
this production that really didn’t work for me was the penis jokes. For
example, during the Worthies section, Costard as Pompey makes the error of
saying “Big” rather than “Great.” And on “Big,” he makes a reference to his penis size. These jokes always
seem forced and out of place. (Though the snake in the pants bit worked.)
There is one short
intermission, coming at the end of Act IV Scene ii. Love’s Labour’s Lost will run through November 10, 2013. The 2nd
Stage Theatre is located at 6500 Santa Monica Blvd. (at Wilcox). Admission is
on a pay-what-you-want basis.
also posted this review, in a slightly longer form, on my Shakespeare blog,