BWW Review: LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST - Lesser Script Done with Extended Farce at Great Lakes Theater

Roy Berko

(Member, American Theatre Critics Association and Cleveland Critics Circle)

LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST, a production of which is now on stage at Great Lakes Theater, is one of Shakespeare's earliest plays. As such, some critics believe that it is the "work of a playwright just learning his art." Though many of Shakespeare's plays are brilliant and have effected the course of Western Literature, Shakespeare scholars tend to view this script as a minor work in the Bard's folio. It has never been one of the playwright's more popular works.

Termed a comedy, it does not have the brilliance or the cleverness of such comedic works as the writer's AS YOU LIKE IT, ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL or THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR.

The story centers on the King of Navarre and his three lords, Berowne, Longaville and Dumaine. The quartet swear an oath to avoid contact with women for three years and dedicate themselves to scholarship and chastity. A vow which, of course, will be almost impossible for four hot-bloodEd English playboys to keep.

The Princess of France arrives for a visit, but because of the King's pledge, the beautiful woman and her three fair ladies cannot meet with the him at court. The men agree to visit the women at their camp outside the castle. Of course, as happens in comedies of love, the octet all fall in love as they banter, exchange witty and biting rhetoric, and tease and taunt each other. After much subterfuge, the four couples are ready to pledge their troth.

Usually at the end of Shakespearean comedies, all ill-will is put aside and the couple (TAMING OF THE SHREW) or couples (A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM) are married. Not so with LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST. (Spoiler alert) As the lovers are about to marry, a messenger arrives to tell the Princess that her father has died.

Berowne states, "Our wooing doth not end like an old play;/Jack hath not Jill: these ladies' courtesy/Might well have made our sport a comedy." Thus by Shakespearean tradition, a character has alerted us to one of the script's conundrums. In this case--the woman have to leave and they and their suitors agree that in a year they will marry.

The themes of the play center on masculine desire, moral judgments, and the conflict between fantasy and reality. The Bard uses lots of wordplay, humor and some dated allusions.

The script's noted accomplishment is that it has the single longest word in all of Shakespeare's plays: "honorificabilitudinitatibus."

In her attempt to spark up the very long and often tedious script, director Tyne Rafaeli has decided to use shticks, gimmicks, and farcical devices to enhance the humor level. Ladder after ladder falls, actors scale the mountain high-library set, they perch and lay on shelves, knock books hither and yon, hang from pieces of scenery, scream, yell, rant and rave. Visual stimuli abound to the delight of many in the audience.

The four male leads: Jonathan Dyrud (Ferdinand), Christopher Tocco (Berowne), Jeb Burris (Longaville), and Nick Steen (Dumaine) all create unique characterizations. Their ladies fair, Erin Partin (Princess of France), Laura Welsh Berg (Rosaline), Christine Weber (Maria) and Heather Thiry (Katherine) also are excellent. Juan Rivera Lebron does a nice turn as Costard, a clown.

Kristen Robinson's library set works as a type of jungle gym for Ferdinand and the boys as they jump all over the well built towering wall for comic effect. It doesn't work as well for the out of doors scenes as there is nothing to indicate changes of setting. Andrea Hood's costumes, Rick Martin's lighting and Josh Schmidt's sound designs all help in developing the production.

Capsule judgement: LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST is a lesser Shakespearian comedy. It gets an over-the-top farcical production under the direction of Tyne Rafaeli. The liking or disliking of the show is going to depend on your reaction to lots and lots of shticks and gimmicks replacing letting the script speak for itself. The opening night audience seems to have been evenly split...many stood and cheered at the final blackout, others sat politely clapping or silently looking on.

LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST runs through April 24, 2016 at the Hanna Theatre. For tickets: 216-664-6064 or www.greatlakestheater.org

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From This Author Roy Berko

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