Love’s Labor Lost
|The Musicians of Love's Labor Lost|
That this is a William Shakespeare play is what the ticket says, but that the play is Love’s Labor Lost begins to explain everything. Perhaps no comedy of the Bard has as many forays into the silliest of puns; as much fractured fun with foreign languages; or the ongoing onslaught of multiple, mistaken identities. Few can boast the same or more stock characters filling its stage. Director Amanda Dehnert recognizes that the probability is high that many of the word-packed rhymes and Elizabethan references and jokes may go way over our heads. She thus employs with tongue fully in cheek countless elements of slapstick, Vaudeville, early TV sitcoms, and comedia dell’arte to ensure that laughs ring loud even when the lines are not quite (if at all) comprehended.
|William Thomas Hodgson, Daniel José Molina & Jeremy Gallardo|
|The Royal Courts of Love's Labor Lost|
|Tatiana Wechsler, Alejandro Escalante, Jennie Greenberry & Nina Feelings|
For all the fun in fooling each other that the royals are having, the people of Navarre are whooping it up even more in their own ways, each taking on a role that one might find in a comedia dell’arte troupe traveling through Italy in Shakespeare’s time. Richard Howard is a delightfully pompous braggart named Sir Adrian “OOOO” (as he likes to announce himself) Dearmaddow, who clearly sees himself far more intellectual, handsome, and genteel than anyone around him. His page, Moth (Shaun Taylor-Corbett) does not have much trouble out-smarting his master and has much fun trading barbs and puns with Costard, the stock character servant of the king’s household who brings down the house delivering a Vaudeville-inspired telephone act (using hands for phones) about the word “remuneration.”
|Richard Howard, Robin Goodrin Nordli & Chris Butler|
Together, the “lower” life of Navarre join, as can be the case in Shakespearean comedies, in a play within the play, this one called “The Nine Worthies.” Honoring nine of history’s most valiant (Hector, Alexander, Pompey the Great, etc.), the play becomes one of the evening’s highlights as overhead projectors are used in tickling fashion to project animated figures. The heads, arms, and flapping tongues of the likes of Moth, Custard, and the rest are rollickingly the background for projected foregrounds on their torsos.
The unnatural state of affairs has set the whole world of Navarre somewhat amok where natural courting between young men and women must be done in sleuth and stealth and where the feminine guests are left largely to fare on their own outside the court. Perhaps as a lesson for us all, Shakespeare does not let all come together in a miraculous ending where wedding bells ring and all are happy. Love’s Labors Lost is not sad in its ending and in fact, there is an uplifting, satisfactory sense. Amanda Dehnert allows her actors x both to be solemn and to find ways to be hopeful, sweet, and even silly. In the end, the evening still ends in rock concert style, with audience leaving probably not totally understanding all they have seen and heard, but certainly having seen enough to leave with huge grins plastered on their faces.
Rating: 4.5 E
Love’s Labor Lost continues through October 14, 2018 in the Allen Elizabethan Theatre at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Tickets are available at https://www.osfashland.org/on-stage.
Photos by Jenny Graham