The very learned Shakespearean scholar Harold Bloom says he takes particular delight in the verbal pyrotechnics of “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” now being performed in repertory at Georgia Shakespeare through August 8. But he comments that he has never seen a production of the play that lives up to its potential. I’m afraid that he must keep looking.
Let’s be fair here: GA Shake already has a charming production of “Shrew: The Musical” on the boards (reviewed in these pages) and is now opening “King Lear,” that titanic tragedy, which promises (fingers crossed) greatness. To pull off these three plays at the same time is an astounding challenge for any company, anywhere.
So if “Love’s Labour” is a bit short on inspiration and sparkle, it boasts a sterling cast and some of Shakespeare’s most nimble language.
In the play the King of Navarre (Brian Kurlander) and his three best buds–Biron (Brad Sherill), Longaville (Neal A. Ghant), and Dumain (Daniel Thomas May)–all swear a public oath to study together and forsake women and romance for three years. Their honor is immediately tested by the arrival of the Princess of France (Caroline Cook) and her three gal pals—Rosaline (Park Krausen), Maria (Courtney Patterson), and Katharine (Caitlin McWethy). The women have sworn no such oath.
Director Janice Akers says in her program notes that the play asks a Renaissance question: Can you achieve immortality by means of devoted study or are you in danger of missing a life that is real because it has deep human connections? Whew! The audience must, I suppose, answer this question in their subconscious minds after viewing the play—or perhaps to ask the question is sufficient (Socrates!).
As a piece of live, viable theatre, this production lacks that electric current it needs to bond with an audience. And let’s face it—this unusual play is not one of the Bard’s incomparable masterpieces. So if it’s to work, the cast must believe in it whole-heartedly, and I don’t think that mysterious, vital connection is present here.
But there are fun moments—Joe Knezevich’s comic turn as Costard is bracing and quirky; Allan Edwards and Casey Hoekstra are genuinely funny, proving again there are indeed no small parts. Brad Sherrill is well cast here but seemed a bit vocally fatigued on opening night.
Both the costumes (Sydney Roberts) and the set (Kat Conley) are rather a puzzlement to me (love those second act curtains, however).
You can decipher the mysteries of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” for yourself, running in repertory (check schedule) through August 8.