To begin, let’s just get this straight, Love’s Labour’s Lost is an acquired taste kind of a play. Having heard that it was a Shakespeare play that I had not seen, I hurried to see. I discovered that just because the name Shakespeare is on a project does not mean it will be as easily likeable as his other works.
Love’s Labour’s Lost follows King Ferdinand of Navarre (Timothy W. Hull) and three colleagues, Biron (Jason Loughlin), Longaville (Erik Bryan), Dumaine (Dan Renkin). The four men vow to swear off relations with women for three years of study and fasting. Their vow then suffers when the Princess of France (Sara Thigpen) and her ladies arrive. Each of the king’s men fall for a different woman in that entourage. Each man writes a sonnet for the women, anddue to a mix up in delivery it is discovered among the men that they all want to pursue their loves. They agree with one another to do so but disguised as Russian travelers as to not break their oaths. Having pre-knowledge of this the ladies, play games with the minds of the men.
My issue with this project is the script. I know, gasp, how could I speak such ill of the great Shakespeare? Well for one the play feels like that of a beginner just getting his toes wet. Upon further research I found this to be true. Love’s Labour’s Lost is one of Shakespeare’s earliest comedies. Granted, Shakespeare’s understanding of the English language is truly masterful. There is just too much of it —the play seems structured in a way in which to show off his this fact. There are characters like the Spanish Knight, Don Adriana De Armado (Jared Reinmuth) and the court clown Costard (Michael Russinik) who could have had much smaller roles. The story could have been done without them, or they could have been written into their own separate comedy. Actually there are just too many characters within this play. Given the plot it could have been written in MANY FEWER words.
For a comedy, there sure are not many laughs from the crowd even though the actors made a commendable effort. The Boomerang Theater proves that it is a house for gifted actors. Memorable performances include that of Michael Russinik. His energy as Costard never wavers and is infectious to a degree. Linda S. Nelson, who plays Boyet, the princesses’ advisor, is the most believable out of the French women and has a way with facial expressions that is intriguing. Jason Loughln’s Brion is wonderfully depicted. He managed to get a chuckle out of me on more than one occasion. The rest of the cast are on point as well but I did not care for their characters. This is outside of their control. It goes back to Shakespeare’s writing. With all the speeches, talking and unnecessary story lines, it feels much longer than two hours. The script overshadows the brilliant acting skill of a great cast.
Other positive elements include the costumes designed by Kathryn Squitieri. Many times during the show I found myself admiring them and tuning out of the long speeches. The fight and movement direction by Dan Renkin is perfect–especially the scene in which the letters are discovered. The movement adds a comedic touch to the overall lack of comedy. Cailin Heffernan makes some good directional choices with the space, making the piece as interactive as it could be.
As I was leaving, I overhead a woman with her young child comment, “who are they targeting with this play? I am not sure.” To this question I say there is a specific and small pool that will appreciate this work: deep studiers of the English language and those familiar with Shakespeare. If that is you, this production will probably be the best performance of Love Labours Lost that you have ever seen, curtesy of the Boomerang Theater Company. If you do not fall in this category just stay away.
You can watch Love’s Labour’s Lost at Bryant Park for free. Last showing is August 30th and show times are Thursdays-Sundays at 7pm.
Love’s Labour’s Lost: Witten by William Shakespeare and directed by Cailin Heffernan.
With: Timothy W. Hull (King Ferdinand of Navarre), Jason Loughlin (Biron), Erik Bryan (Longaville), Dan Renkin (Dumaine), Sara Thigpen (Princess of France), Michael Russinik (Costard), Jared Reinmuth (Don Adriana De Armado), Jake Minevich (Sir Anthony Dull), Amanda Berry (Moth), Sarah Norris (Jacquenetta), Amanda Jones (Maria), Natalie Roy (Rosaline), Hannah Jane McMurray (Katherine), Linda S. Nelson (Boyet), Deborah Carlson (Holofernes), Timothy Babcock (Sir Nathaniel), Jake Minevich (Mercade)
Henry Aronson (Original Music and Lyrics), (Danielle Demisay) Assistant Director, A ndfrew Morton (Stage Manager), Kathryn Meister (Assistant Stage Manager), Kathryn Squitieri (Costume Designer), Theresa McElwee (Vocal Coach), Dan Renkin (Fight Directors), Antonio Minino KampfirePR (Press), Stefano Imbert (Illustrations), Zennie Trieu (Development Intern), Veronica Sipp (Design intern) and Leah Voysey (Directing Interns).