BWW Review: Folger Theatre's LOVE's LABOR'S LOST at the Folger Shakespeare Library
Love's Labor's Lost is one of Shakespeare's earlier comedies and it tends to get "lost" among his more popular comedies. For those who may have seen a Shakespearean comedy before, this comedy is different and unexpected. The King of Navarre (Joshua David Robinson) declares his kingdom to be a place of scholarly pursuits. He invites Longaville (Matt Dallal), Berowne (Zachary Fine), and Dumaine (Jack Schmitt) to study with him for three years. The catch? The King and his fellow scholars aren't allowed to be with women. The Princess of France (Amelia Pedlow) and her ladies, Maria (Yesenia Iglesias), Rosaline (Kelsey Rainwater), and Katherine (Chani Werely), are coming for a visit. Folger Theatre's Love's Labor's Lost, directed by Vivienne Benesch, compliments the uniqueness of this comedy through a delightfully funny cast and production set during the 1930's.
Folger Theatre's production nails the witty humor and play on language which Love's Labor's Lost is known for. While the main characters are funny in their own way, the rotating cast of secondary characters including Eric Hisson (Don Armado), Louis Butelli (Holofernes), Josh Adams (Dull, Marcade), Tonya Beckman (Boyet, Jacquenetta), Megan Graves (Mote), and Susan Rome (Nathaniel) hold up the proverbial pillars of the production's comedic relief. Great comedic duos abound in this production. Hisson's Don Armado, who is a head-over-heels guitar playing Spaniard, and Graves' Mote, who is a boy is inferred to work for Don Armado, are a one of those great duos. Their banter in the library as they talk about Hercules and Samson is snappy and entertaining. Butelli's Holofernes and Rome's Nathaniel are also quite the pair. Many of their scenes together involve them talking about flirtishly talking about scholarly pursuits as they sip tea. One particular favorite scene involves Holofernes along with Nathaniel discussing the type of deer that the Princess killed during the hunt with light commentary from Adams' Dull. Although she doesn't appear too much in the play, Beckman's New York accented Jacquenetta owns the stage with her impeccable comedic timing. Let's not forget about Lewis' Cosard with his New Jersey accent. Lewis' performance as Cosard is side splitting funny especially during the Nine Worthies as he "battles" Don Armado and holds court as Pompey the Great.
Much like the comedy, love doesn't really have anywhere to hide in Folger Theatre's production. The men in Love's Labor's Lost are pining for their lovers. They are writing poems and songs. Folger Theatre's productions captures this pining best in a scene in which the King and his friends stumble in their pajamas through the library. Robinson, Dallal, Fine, and Schmitt all capture this pining well as they weep and hide in desperation from their fellow scholars. Towards the end, they break out into song. While the song during this scene is unexpected, it is a nice tune. While the men are pining, it is interesting to witness how the Princess of France and her ladies handle their sudden whirlwind romances. They play along with the men. This turns into a game of wits. Whenever Pedlow, Iglesias, Rainwater, and Wereley are on stage together, they capture and deliver the quick wit and sharp dialogue of Shakespeare's lines. It's great fun to watch the game of wits unfold as both groups of lovers disguise themselves.
Folger Theatre's production quality is full of love. Tracy Christensen's costume designs reflect the time period with the dapper suits and fun fringed dresses decorated with sequins. The set, designed by Lee Savage, looks exactly like the reading room at the Folger Library. The library has everything from the same glass stained window to the dark wood bookshelves. During outdoor scenes, the double doors open to reveal a spring backdrop with the Capitol building at its center. The sound design and original music by Lindsay Jones compliments the 1930's aesthetic and adds to the play's overall atmosphere. The impact of the play closing with "The Owl and the Cuckoo" paired with Lindsay Jones' original music is felt from the beginning to the last note.
Folger Theatre's production of Love's Labor's Lost is a love worth finding.
Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes including a 15 minute intermission
Photo caption and credit: The King of Navarre (Joshua David Robinson) has a word for the ladies of France (l to r: Yesenia Iglesias, Chani Wereley, Kelsey Rainwater). Shakespeare's comedy Love's Labor's Lost is on stage at Folger Theatre, April 30 - June 9, 2019. Photo by Brittany Diliberto.
LOVE's LABOR's LOST runs at the Folger Shakespeare Library - 201 E Capitol St SE Washington D.C. - through June 9, 2019. Tickets can be purchased online.