BWW Review: LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST at Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival
Silliness, Spaniards, and Soviets synthesize to produce a thoroughly entertaining evening under the stars as Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival presents "Love's, Labour's, Lost" through July 16 for its 21st Season.
This year's production is set in pre-World War I Europe. The king of Navarre and his three lords have vowed to abstain from the company of women for three years. Hilarity ensues when the French princess and her three companions appear at the court and demand entrance. Along the way, a heartsick Spanish warrior, two pompous academics, and a dimwitted yet energetic clown appear.
As one of Shakespeare's earlier works, "Love's Labour's Lost" is rarely produced as it is sometimes called one of his "problem" plays. A problem because, possibly, there are many plots, subplots, and characters that haven't been traditionally nor fully flushed out (however we do see them finding their way into many of Shakespeare's later works).
But under the direction of Kevin P. Kern, there is no problem here!
Kern uses humor (and lots of it) to bring the audience on a side-splitting comical ride. The result, causing uproarious cheers with a Russian Dance (choreographed by Jeff Wallach and music composed by Christopher Hoag), and at times breaking the fourth wall and encouraging audience participation with its clown character, Costard (played by Louis Jerry Kernion), or with a cleverly executed campy fight and chase sequence (staged by Fight Choreographer Brett Elliott and Kern).
The 2 plus hours fly by as this talented cast of actors sing, mug, grope, grab, smooch, leap, leer, wrestle, weep, banter, saunter, kibitz, cajole, and work as a well-oiled acting company to produce this humorous romp with moments of true and genuine emotion!
Stand-outs within this production are its four bachelors: Ross Hellwig (Ferdinand), Todd Lanker (Berowne), Kenny Toll (Dumaine) and RJ O'Young (Longaville). Their female counterparts equally stand-out: Samantha Eggers (Princess), Angela Gulner (Rosaline), Leah Dalrymple (Katherine) and Sarah Yannie (Maria). Hellwig and Eggers and Lanker and Gulner have some wonderful moments with Hellwig/Eggers creating more of the romantic moments and Lanker/Gulner sparing with some Benedick/Beatrice foreshadowing. Lanker continues, throughout the play, to be a versatile performer and is a joy to watch.
Further stand-outs include Michael Faulkner (Holofernes) and Tom Ashworth (Sir Nathaniel) with some intellectual bickering that is hilarious to watch, the adorable pairing of Jason D. Rennie (Armado) and Thuy Duong (Moth), plus the vocal power and consistent performance of Trisha Miller (Jaquenetta).
The design elements (Costumes by Howard Schmitt, Lighting Design by Leigh Allen, Set Design by Brian Reed, and Scenic Design by Malissa Marlow) conjure up a Disney-esqe confection that blend seamlessly together. Kudos to T. Theresa Scarano for the props design and collection which add to this well-told story.
The Kingsmen Shakespeare Company is Cal Lutheran's professional theater company.
The festival grounds open at 5:30 p.m. for picnicking and entertainment. General admission is $20 for adults and free for those under 18. Individual tickets are available at the door only. For lawn box reservations or more information, visit kingsmenshakespeare.org or call 805-493-3452.