Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Love's Labours Lost (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

After two earlier productions by Chase What Flies, I can safely say I was looking forward to their latest, Love's Labor's Lost.  Adding to the fun, never having seen this particular work (generally seen as one of Shakespeare's lightest comedies) my expectations were nill.


Essentially the story deals with the King of Navarre (Doug Harvey) and his three male companions who have vowed to eschew pleasure and the company of women for three years of intense study.  Dumain (Kelvin Morales) and Longaville (John Cody Fasano) feel at least as much enthusiasm as their monarch while Berowne (Jordon Klomp) hesitates hard.  In the end, he signs the vow with a confident prediction--he will be the last of the four to violate it.

He proves to be the first.  But the King is second, as news arrives of the Princess of France (Tiana Randall-Quant) coming to court on an important diplomatic mission.  One look is all it takes, as the King falls for the Princess--just as Berowne falls for Rosaline (Julie Lanctot) one of the Princess' companions who has in fact seen the young Lord prior.  The Princess of course has two more companions, Maria (Maia Luer) and Katherine (Megan Ruble).  Well, of course she does.  You saw that coming, didn't you?

Everyone else did.  They also have a sharp-tongued male courtier along, named Boyet (William Gray Schierholt).

Of course it wouldn't be a Shakespeare comedy without lots more supporting characters of all varieties:  Don Armado (Kristina Mueller), a silly foreign knight, plus his clever squire Moth (Ken Ivy), the winsome young local girl Jaquenetta (Talya Sindel) whom the knight has fallen for, plus of course the clever but not wise local lad Costard (Cameron Rose) who also longs for her.  Add to this two local pedants, Sir Nathaniel (Kaite Brandt) and Holofernes (Tippi Thomas).

But stealing much of the show is Dull, one of the King's rangers or groundskeepers (Alex Sheldon) who listens with such a marvelous combination of puzzlement and pathos I rarely could take my eyes off of him. Although to be fair, the entire cast did as much for pretty much every moment.

In cinematic terms, the whole comes across as a blend of the most delightful farces and romcoms of all time.  The cast and director Taylor Jackson Ross clearly aim for this, and achieve it.  The sweetness of the silly love stories, the antic goings on, the misadventures--at one time involving a lot of wonderfully inventive masks and costumes--work all the better for a dashes here and there of the bittersweet.  A moment of casual cruelty by someone who isn't generally cruel.  A reminder of personal tragedy.  A human moment of humiliation.  But amid trap doors, wit, practical jokes on top of practical jokes, the wise and foolish as well as the high and low spouting what they think is wisdom and what they hope is true love.

On top of all that, as in the best of the Bard's comedies, come a melancholy event to bring everyone back to the real world.  Characters, no less than the audience, must leave the carefree hours of courtship and play.  Return to a world where consequences await--and lovers require more than verses to prove themselves.  The name of the play after all is Love's Labours Lost, not Won.  But there is a note of hope after all.  While the story ends with only one marriage--not among any of the highborn, not coincidentally--it offers the possibility of more.  Eventually.

That we feel that is part of what makes this such a fine and franky beautiful show.

Loves Labour's Lost plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm until December 16, 2018 at the Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd (one block east of Vine), Hollywood CA 90038.

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