Aired on KSDS-FM on 9/2/16
RUN DATES: 7/14/16 – 9/18/16
VENUE: The Old Globe
“Words, words, words,” as Hamlet would say.
But “Love’s Labor’s Lost” came earlier, and it’s punch-drunk on language. Every character is besotted with his or her own wit, affinity or verbosity.
Shakespeare was sending up the writing styles of his time. It makes for a clever linguistic exercise.
On the outdoor Festival Stage, The Old Globe has mounted a splendid production, gorgeously designed to resemble an 18th century French garden, a Fragonard painting sprung to verdant, bucolic life.
The setting is the lush park of the King of Navarre, replete with a statue of Aphrodite and Cupid, a swing that sways offstage and on, even a little pond for splashing in. This idyll is ideal for a story of romantic love in all its unpredictable forms.
At the outset, the King and his three comrades swear an oath, forswearing women and sleep – for three years — in order to devote themselves to study. But before the ink is dry, the Princess of France arrives with her retinue of lovely ladies. Cupid’s arrows fly in all directions, and the couples pair off neatly, though the men humorously jump through hoops to hide their state of bliss from their mates. No one wants to be the first oath-breaker.
Under the wonderfully choreographic direction of three-time Tony winner Kathleen Marshall, hilarity greets the many clownish characters, ranging from the lowest class to the highest, from a dullard named Dull to an ornately loquacious Spaniard, to a pedantic, pontificating academic.
The sharp poetic wit of the central duo, Berowne and his beloved, Rosaline, foreshadows the whip-smart exchanges of Beatrice and Benedick to come. Other thematic and character elements will reappear in Shakespeare’s later works, in more refined form. Here, in this resplendent setting, the costumes, lighting, sound and performances are sublime.
There is that unexpected, dark turn in the final moments that keeps the play from ending in joyful mass marriages. But it gives rise to a stunning final stage picture that aches with love and longing.
©2016 PAT LAUNER, San Diego Theater Reviews