Love’s Labour’s Lost
By Jaymee Sherman
Lights … camera … Shakespeare? Milwaukee Shakespeare’s opening night performance of the comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost was not just another go at the Bard in a modern day setting, for these renditions are recently legion. No, this was a headlong jump into the deep end that successfully brought a hilarious Elizabethan era play to a media-savvy, pop-culture-drenched, 21st-century audience.
As you take your seat in the hip studio theater in the Broadway Theatre Center, don’t expect to see the stage set with turret or tower, in throne room or great hall. Instead, the trappings of a television studio beckon you into the world of reality TV to eavesdrop on the goings-on of a group of royals who have agreed to live their lives transparently for you and for the cameras as they battle out the emotions of everyday life.
Director Jennifer Uphoff Gray has assembled a strong, talented cast to bring this classic comedy close to home. Kevin Rich is brilliant in his portrayal of reluctant Berowne, who struggles most with making the commitment to sterile scholarship. On the surface, an unreasonable, combustible sort, Rich’s Berowne is at once the most reasonable as he weighs and measures and over-thinks with a passion unfelt by his less complex, if milder cohorts. He is the perfect foil to Wayne T. Carr’s calm, noble, self-deluded King, whose vulnerability to love and its ensuing frustration is both touchingly down-to-earth and hopelessly funny. Chris White is charming as the easygoing Longaville. Jake Russo, as the slow-witted, ever-present cameraman, Anthony Dull, gives a minor role the personality and presence of a major character. Molly Rhode plays the dignified, self-assured Princess of France with grace, and Victoria Caciopoli brings a wonderful depth and exuberance to her portrayal of feisty Rosaline. Norman Moses’ performance of Don Adriano de Armado may have you purchasing tickets to see this comedy more than once. His love-sick Spaniard, a manly man swamped by his emotions, is a hilarious study in contrasts. Angela Iannone brings a mischievous sense of play to her portrayal of the impish instigator Boyet, and T. Stacy Hicks is the consummate Shakespearean clown as Costard. Although schoolteacher Holofernes is slightly histrionic, Richard Ganoung’s adeptness at verbal high jinks in this role is delightful.
Using the English language as only he can, Shakespeare skewers personal pet peeves such as pretense, pseudo-intellectualism and the misuse of words, timeless shortcomings all. The familiar device of the play within a play appears in the wonderfully entertaining Pageant of the Nine Worthies. Although over the top in its modern references, it works and is truly a gem in this context. If you’re there to have fun, you will. VS
Milwaukee Shakespeare’s production of Love’s Labour’s Lost runs through October 5 at the Broadway Theatre Center’s Studio Theatre. For tickets or more information call 414-291-7800 or visit Milwaukee Shakespeare online.