By William Shakespeare.
Directed by Marti Maraden.
At Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
Terrific acting and fine comedy fuel Love’s Labor’s Lost.
I have not seen a production of Love’s Labor’s Lost since the 2002 production directed by Barbara Gaines here at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. LLL comes off as a mediocre comedy long on word play, malapropisms, rhymes, and cute poetry but short on plot. Director Marti Maraden’s production is better that the material with smart, articulate acting and several funny scenes.
SYNOPSIS: King Ferdinand of Navarre (John Tufts) convinces his friends Berowne (Nate Burger), Dumain (Julian Hester) and Longaville (Madison Niedehauser)to commit themselves to study with him for three long years, swearing off all worldly pleasures—like a good night’s sleep, three meals a day, and the mere sight of a woman. But after you’ve decreed that no woman set foot within a mile of your royal court, and you’ve sentenced poor Costard (Alex Goodrich) for one simple transgression with a country girl named Jaquenetta (Maggie Portman), how do you then receive the Princess of France (Jennie Greenberry) with her three ladies-in-waiting when she arrives to negotiate a treaty on her father’s behalf?
One look at the French entourage ignites the men’s romantic fervor, and sends their academic ardor up in flames. The four start setting their love to sonnets, each hoping to keep his rapture under wraps. But Navarre’s postal service is far from foolproof, and a couple of letters are misdirected along the way, exposing at least even Berowne to his guilty cohorts. The men agree to abandon all scholarly aspirations, and band together in and all-out campaign to conquer the ladies’ hearts. The success of their tactical maneuvers now hang upon the strength of the French resistance that lies ahead.
LLL is a verbose work with punning and allusions coming almost nonstop. This snappy wordplay is funny and keeps you interested in the characters and the story. The wit and charm comes through from excellent cast lead by Laura Rook (Rosaline) and Nate Burger (Berowne) whose punning banter wins our hearts.
Romance abounds as well as comedy from the mandatory Clowns and bit players that Shakespeare sprinkles loosely throughout. Allen Gilmore (Don Adriano), young Aaron Lamm (Moth) and David Lively (Holofernes) are humorous and steal many scenes. The Bard would later develop main characters with more depth, but in LLL, the clowns prevail.
The 18th Century costumes add beauty, especially with the woman’s dresses (designed by Christina Poddubiuk). The vivid set (designed by Kevin Depinet) and the smart lighting (by Greg Hofmann) create an atmosphere of tranquility and optimism. The play turns dark toward the end dealing with death and promises. An interesting twist that is questionable.
Love’s Labor’s Lost is a romantic romp ripe with reaping rides rendering redemption for the reckless. (Sorry). The acting and the wordplay, nicely articulated plus the funny scenes with Steven Pringle (Dull, a constable), Greg Vinkler, as Sir Natheniel and David Lively’s Holofernes are a hoot! While LLL isn’t the finest Shakespeare, the brilliant acting carries it home. It is worth seeing.
Date Reviewed: February 15, 2017.
For more info checkout the Love’s Labor’s Lost page at theatreinchicago.com.
At Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Navy Pier, Chicago, IL, call 312.595.5600 or visit Chicago Shakes, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission, through March 26, 2017.