Think of all the succeeding generations of actors who have tackled Shakespeare with gusto, and perhaps some trepidation. The exquisitely trained young pros of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, who have been touring their 2007 London hit across the United States, have absolutely nothing to fear. They’re fully up to the task of putting over Shakespeare’s youthful comedy, considered somewhat problematic for the sheer density and intricacy of its verbal jests. Though modern audiences may not catch much more than an occasional allusion to “horns” (Elizabethans loved infidelity humor), the company, under Dominic Dromgoole’s spirited direction, so adroitly physicalizes the vicissitudes of these love-struck young courtiers that you’ll have no trouble following who’s crushing on whom, and why.
No sooner have the youthful King of Navarre (Philip Cumbus) and – less willingly – his three closest friends set upon a course of monastic study than they’re descended upon by the Princess of France (Michelle Terry) and her trio of BFFs. The distraction naturally proves too tempting, and, books abruptly abandoned, the matching quartets are soon embroiled in a bizarre mating dance: the men go so far as to disguise themselves as Russian Cossacks to test their brand-new loves’ loyalty. In a side plot, Don Adriano de Armado, a “braggart from Spain” (Paul Ready brilliantly plays him as a dopey milquetoast), finds his Dulcinea in the literally filthy wench Jaquenetta (Rhiannon Oliver).
Everything about this traveling show is top-drawer: the gorgeous costumes, period music, clever clowning, and especially the talent pool, among whom Trystan Gravelle and Thomasin Rand (as the too-clever-for-his-own-good Berowne and his mental match, Rosaline) especially shine.