BWW Review: LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST at Greater Hartford Shakespeare Festival
"They have measured many a mile to tread a measure with you on this grass." A very appropriate quote from William Shakespeare's comedy LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST, which is playing through July 30th on the grounds of St. Joseph's University in West Hartford - a performance of the Greater Hartford Shakespeare Festival. Appropriate because audiences gather together (on the grass and underneath the beautiful summer sky) on blankets, lawn chairs, and camp chairs to view the outdoor production of the bard's timeless comedy. This experience is not only exciting in terms of the strong production, but also for the unique venue and opportunity to dine/drink al fresco while enjoying a night of theatre.
As for the play, I have always been partial to Shakespeare's comedies. Not that the history plays and tragedies aren't great, but the comedies have always felt to me to be a little more accessible and understandable for general audiences. LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST is no exception. It tells the story of King Ferdinand of Navarre (David Nottingham) and his three student attendants, Berowne (Billy Saunders, Jr.), Longaville (Chris Bailey) and Dumaine (Jhulenty Delossantos) who decide to forego all of life's pleasures (including the company of women) for three years only to be immediately visited by four women who each man immediately falls in love with - the Princess of France (Caitlin Harrity) and her attendants, Rosaline (Emma Krishnaswami), Maria (Dominique Rose), and Katherine (Ariana Ortmann). Things are complicated by others in the king's court including a Spaniard, Don Adriano De Armado (Michael Nowicki), his page, Moth (Corey Welden), a wench, Jaquenetta (Maura Bonini) and the fool who is in love with her, Costard (Geoffrey Sheehan), among others. As the comedy progresses there is much banter, a case of misunderstood communications, a group of swarthy Russians, and even a "play" within a play. And while there is a lot of action and iambic pentameter to keep up with, the program includes a very useful scene synopsis to help audiences follow along.
LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST is, at heart, a frustrating story of love vs. scholarship and study. This production is charming, funny, and fast-paced. Every actor on stage gave a strong performance and judging by the laughter, the audience was thoroughly entertained. With a cast of sixteen, it is hard to mention all of the performances (they were all great), but a few standouts - Billy Saunders, Jr. as the student Berowne is passionate, animated, and convincing as the skeptic of the group. When he falls for Rosaline (Emma Krishnaswami) he falls hard and she plays brilliantly coy and strong-willed against his advances. As the Princess of France, Caitlin Harrity is stellar. I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat anytime she had significant dialogue, as her delivery, her tone, and her facial expressions are just marvelous. Speaking of facial expressions, Laura Sheehan, who plays Boyet, is quite entertaining to watch as she navigates Boyet's subversive plots to create a bit of havoc for the young lovers. Finally, as Don Armado, Michael Nowicki is really funny, especially when navigating the language and when pursuing the hilariously bubbly Jaquenetta (Maura Bonini).
David Watson directs this production and does a great job utilizing the minimalist setting on the grounds of SJU. By utilizing the space in the middle of and around the audience, he creates an immersive feeling which works well for this play as much of it takes place outdoors. David Regan's sets serve the actors well including two strategically placed columns, Vivianna Lamb's costumes are eye catching, and the music, composed by Mark Ceppetelli and performed on stage by Sven Rainey add the perfect amount of ambiance to the show.
Overall, I am thrilled to have had the chance to experience my first production by the Greater Hartford Shakespeare Festival at St. Joseph's. It is the perfect thing for a warm summer night to bring the family or a date to and enjoy a picnic on the grass along with some hilarious and high-quality Shakespeare. And if you aren't a seasoned Shakespeare fan, not to worry, LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST is a great introduction - entertaining, light, not too complex, and simply fun, especially in this strong and noteworthy production.
LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST is a performance of Capital Classic's Greater Hartford Shakespeare Festival. It runs July 13-30, 2017, Thursday - Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 5:30 p.m. and is held on the grounds of the University of Saint Joseph, 1678 Asylum Avenue, West Hartford, Connecticut. In case of rain, performances will be held inside the adjacent Hoffman Auditorium. Tickets: $15 for adults, $10 for students/seniors, which are available at the door or at the Frances Driscoll Box office at (860) 231-5555 or at usj.com/arts. Learn more about Capital Classics and the 2017 Greater Hartford Shakespeare Festival at HartfordShakespeare.org or Facebook.com/CapitalClassics.
Top Photo - Cast members Billy Saunders Jr. and Emma Krishnaswami
Mid Photo - Outdoor festival experience; photo by Thomas Giroir Photography