What happens when you throw together the Bard, a bucolic 1930âs setting, and a little bit of Barry White? Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festivalâs unforgettable rendition of Loveâs Labourâs Lost â a hidden treasure among the Bardâs romantic comedies.
Loveâs Labourâs Lost has a plot so clever, even the synopsis will have you laughing. The King of Navarre and three of his retainers decide, quite nobly, that they are going to spend two years living as ascetics â eating one meal a day, sleeping two hours per night, and completely abstaining from women and the pleasures of court. Naturally, as soon as the men have signed their names to the contract, the King is politely reminded that the Princess of France and her three beautiful ladies-in-wait will be arriving any moment to discuss a business matter. What ensues is an epic battle of the sexes, and an exercise in deception. Can these men woo their sweethearts without violating the contract?
Since this is one of my all-time favorite Shakespeare plays, in spite of its relative obscurity, I had high expectations. Well, HVSF knocked it out of the park. The rustic â30s theme blended perfectly with the expanse of verdure behind the open-air tent, and the pastel costumes gave the show a light, summertime feel. Yet, there was definitely depth in this performance: the men were sincere in their affection for the women, and the women constantly proved to be more than one-dimensional love interests.
One of my favorite elements of this performance was the focus on the menâs insecurity. So much Elizabethan drama involves male characters doing valiant deeds for the women they love, or making rambling proclamations, or acting as impossible heroes. This production pokes fun at that identity, as outstanding physical comedy portrays the menâs shortcomings. They trip, they stutter, they bumble around in even the simplest of actions, clearly unnerved by the intelligence and beauty of these women. Itâs nearly impossible not to fall in love with this group of characters.
As usual, the acting was impeccable. Lord Berowneâs (Jason OâConnell) progression from a witty womanizer to a fool in love was charming to watch. The woman he was wooing, Rosaline (Katie Hartke), had more than enough sass to keep him on his toes. In fact, the dynamic between all four of the couples was part of what made the production such a success â the pairs really complemented each other very well. The antics of Don Armado (Michael Borrelli), the over-the-top Spanish Casanova, added lots of humor to an already entertaining performance.
Speaking of entertainingâŚ Terrence OâBrien, the director, usually follows intermission with a musical number: imagine my surprise when Barry White filled the tent! The hilarious dance number had the entire audience laughing out loud, and in my opinion, was a perfect example of how universal Shakespeareâs art truly is.
I would recommend this play to anyone â even though the dialogue can be a little lofty (this is the Shakespeare play with the most rhymes, and OâBrien notes that the plot revolves around wordplay), the superior acting and fun plot is certainly enough to keep any audience engaged.
Loveâs Labourâs Lost will run until September 2nd at the beautiful Boscobel estate in Garrison, NY.Â Visit http://hvshakespeare.org/content/2012-calendar for details or to purchase tickets.