This week, I've been reviewing the plays at the Utah Shakespeare Festival. Click here for my review of The Tempest and here for my review of King John.
Love's Labour Lost is one of Shakespeare's earliest comedies (preceded only by Comedy of Errors, I think.). It is not produced all that often, as it has an abrupt and awkward ending, so it's not as appealing as Much Ado or Twelfth Night or Midsummer.
The basic plot is that the King of Navarre has decreed that no women shall be admitted to his court for several years while he and his nobles dedicate themselves to studying. However, just as they all commit to this plan, they receive word that a delegation from France, headed by the Princess and her ladies, is arriving. The King decides they must receive the women, as it is important to keep good foreign relations, but that the women may not come to the court; they must stay in tents in the woods. Of course, as soon as the men meet the women, they all fall in love.
The King is played in this production by the fabulous Quinn Mattfield, who turns every role to gold. But, for some reason, the website contains not a single photo of him in this role. Still, audience members would do well to watch his facial expressions, as he conveys so much that way.
The rest of the lovers aren't so well-played, but the story goes forth understandably and pleasantly.
Other interesting characters are Armado and Moth, a visiting Spaniard and his page, who provide delightful comic dialogue as Armado courts the lovely Jaquenetta.
And, also far more interesting than the lovers, are the school masters and Dull, a constable who is clearly the forerunner to Dogberry in Much Ado. Master Holofernes loves words, and Shakespeare obviously took great pains to make fun of school masters with this character. Holofernes is portrayed expertly by Henry Woronicz. Dull, played by Thomas Novak, is hilarious. (He even comes out at intermission to do a silent routine with a croquet game. SO funny!) Contrary to what one might expect, Holofernes does not disdain the stupid Dull, but rather he works -- not too successfully -- to teach him things.
In a departure from the norm at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, this play is not set in the time period Shakespeare intended, but in Regency England. Thus, we see a lot of top hats and empire-waist dresses, and the whole thing has a very Pride and Prejudice feel to it. The director even chose to have Moth sing a snatch of Byron's "She Walks In Beauty" in a spot where Shakespeare did not specify what the character was to sing. (This certainly surprised me when it happened, as I was pretty dang sure Shakespeare was no time traveler, but I asked the director at the seminar the following morning, and she said she chose Byron because Shakespeare's sonnets did not have the correct meter to fit with the music she wanted to use.) However, the play still works well in spite of this straying from tradition.
This is a play well worth seeing. It's easy to understand and has some very funny moments. Shakespeare newbies should not fear this one, and those more familiar with the Bard's works will enjoy the talents of so many of the actors in this production. Don't miss this one!
All photos used in this post are from the official website, bard.org, and ticket information can be found there as well.