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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
LOVE’S LABOR’S LOST
at Public Theater

TONGUE TWISTERS
By MATT WINDMAN

  Ph: Richard Termine

The plot seems so simple. In a sort of battle of the sexes, a bunch of privileged rich boys pledge to stay away from women and study. But after meeting some hot gals visiting from France, they renege on their plans entirely. They then proceed to pull pranks and party until grim news from the outside world ruins their fun. Meanwhile, a bunch of fools observe from the background and deal with their own love woes.

Yet Love’s Labor’s Lost is one of the most difficult Shakespeare plays to enjoy or even understand in light of its academic and esoteric language. The early comedy, which is hardly ever performed, is not exactly the Bard's finest play. It served mainly as an opportunity for Shakespeare to show off his witty wordplay. Because it is so difficult to perform, most directors attempt to compensate for the densely packed language with shtick and overly broad performances. Perhaps that is why it's more fun to read the play than actually watch a production.

This fall season, the Public Theater, which usually waits until the summer to provide a healthy helping of Shakespeare at the outdoor Delacorte Theatre in Central Park, is presenting indoor stagings of King Lear, Titus Andronicus and Love’s Labor’s Lost. While King Lear is a starry affair with a cast led by Sam Waterston and Bill Irwin and directed by James Macdonald, Love’s Labor’s Lost and Titus Andronicus are receiving spare productions as part of the Shakespeare Lab, for which tickets cost only $15.

Two years ago, London’s Globe Theatre, making a rare New York visit, presented a thoroughly misguided and irritating touring production of Love’s Labor’s Lost. The numerous gags in that production, which ran three hours in length, included farts, make-out scenes, life-size deer puppets and a food fight.

At the Public, director Karin Coonrod also chooses to accentuate the play’s potential for physical comedy and the wild sparring that goes on between the courtly men and women. The set design is marked by a grassy turf that brings to mind an athletic field. Coonrod also lightens up the sad ending with upbeat music and singing, even after the boys and gals have said their farewells. 

Some of Coonrod’s decisions are downright odd. For instance, she places chairs at the back of the set, several of which resemble the Anspacher Theater’s own seats, on which the cast watches much of the show, just like audience members, while they are not in a given scene. The princess and her pals randomly perform a rendition of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” Finally, and most importantly, performing the entire show without an intermission is really uncalled for.  

But what ultimately makes this production special is a strong and very attractive cast led by Hoon Lee as the King and Renne Elise Goldsberry as the princess.    

 


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