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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at Shakespeare in the Park


  Patti Murin, Audrey Lynn Weston, Maria Thayer and Kimiko Glenn/ Ph: Joan Marcus

In a one-two punch delivered with a featherweight’s skillful panache, the Public Theater has followed up its rollicking Comedy of Errors with a Love’s Labour’s Lost that’s even – impossibly – sillier and funnier. Bardolators may not be pleased; this musicalization bears only the broadest resemblance to the original – just the basic plot turns, and hold the iambic pentameter, for the most part. Less exacting groundlings, however, are guaranteed an evening of unalloyed merriment.

Adaptor/director Alex Timbers relocates the story to the present, plunking the young King of Navarre (Daniel Breaker) and his three conflicted comrades-in-asceticism in a country resort that just happens to be hosting the college reunion of the Princess of France (Patti Murin) and her three ladies-in-waiting-for-this-party-to-get-started. Bad girls meet virtuous boys, who one by one begin to rethink their vows – most spectacularly in the fantasy of Lord Longaville (Bryce Pinkham), who finds himself leading an all-cast kickline in a pair of glitter short-shorts.

While the nobles are dithering, you can count on the rustics and the “fantasticals” – here represented by the lovesick Don Adriano de Armado (Caesar Samayoa) – to get right to the business at hand. Armado, whose “entrance” from onstage is an ingenious conceit best left a surprise, is besotted with the barmaid Jaquenetta (Rebecca Naomi Jones), who thinks him ridiculous – rightly so – and prefers to hang with the slacker Costard (Charlie Pollock).

After a couple of mis-delivered billets doux, the correct pairing off commences. However, the young women, left leery by previous encounters (“I had a fling with the King,” the Princess confesses), consider it meet to test their wooers’ mettle.

In the original, the young men decide to do their initial courting safely in jest, “apparell'd … like Muscovites.” Here, cleverly, Timbers has them don the disguise of “turtleneck-wearing East German performance artists.” It takes a turning of the tables to get them to reveal their real selves, in a slick boy-band rendition of the 1991 hit “I’m the One.”

Composer/lyricist Michael Friedman deserves supreme credit for a score of witty songs, ranging from the rant “Rich People” (“They’re taking stuff away from you and me,” gripes Costard; “they pay for better seats that should be free”) to Jaquenetta’s smoking anti-torch song “Love’s a Gun.”

Having built up to a grand finale to beat the band (a literal band), Timbers – following Shakespeare’s lead – pulls the rug out with a memento mori that undercuts all that has gone before. So much for the razzle-dazzle – and yet in its faithful adherence, this reminder of human frailty signals utmost respect for the source.


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