archive
links
essays

Love's Labor's Lost

In the Denver Center's current playbill, critic Dan Sullivan attempts to provide context for the theatre company's production of William Shakespeare's Love's Labor's Lost. Sullivan begins by superciliously attempting to dismiss the notion that the Shakespearean canon was written by Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. In ignoring what few facts we know about the glove maker's son, William Shakspere (sic), such as that he could barely sign his name and that his children were illiterate, Sullivan's arguments become so piteous that even Stratfordians would find them embarrassing. Worse yet, by ignoring compelling contemporary scholarship (and supporting a poor shill for no other reason than a cottage industry and academic careers depend upon it), Sullivan obfuscates the themes in this lesser known, yet thoughtful, comedy, rather than illuminating them.

Seen in the larger context of de Vere's life, Love's Labor's Lost was written during his first infatuation with Anne Vavasor, the dark lady of the sonnets. This timing also lines up well with the parody that de Vere performs on Euphuism, a particular style of writing popular in the 1570's and '80's. It is important to note that this satirical tack would have been passé if it were conformed with the Stratfordian time line, which usually dates this play at least ten years later.

Photo of (Foreground) Kate Gleason as the Princess of France and Aaron Serotsky as Ferdinand, King of Navarre, (Background L to R) Morgan Hallett, Laura Heisler, January Murelli and John Sloan
(Foreground) Kate Gleason as the
Princess of France and Aaron
Serotsky as Ferdinand, King of
Navarre, (Background L to R)
Morgan Hallett, Laura Heisler,
January Murelli and John Sloan
Photo credit: Terry Shapiro
Thus director Anthony Powell's choice of casting the principals in this production as twenty-somethings fits perfectly with de Vere's age at the time he wrote the play. In Love's Labor's Lost, Anne is represented by Rosaline and de Vere by Berowne, much as the couple is later represented by Beatrice and Benedict in Much Ado About Nothing (once called Love's Labor's Won). In fact, among the lead characters—the King of Navarre and his lords, and the Princess of France and her ladies—the best lines and most believable romance are given to Rosaline and Berowne. Here, Morgan Hallett and John Sloan shine, making the most of their opportunities amidst the general superficiality of the word games and pretensions of their cohorts.

Photo of (L to R) Kate Gleason as the Princess of France and Morgan Hallett as Rosaline
(L to R) Kate Gleason as the
Princess of France and Morgan
Hallett as Rosaline
Photo credit: Terry Shapiro
Indeed, it is this frivolity that gives the play its less than stellar reputation relative to the rest of the canon. Yet, while it must be admitted that this is an early work, such excess is exactly what the playwright intended, in order to satirize the foppish style of Euphuism. This said, despite gallant performances by Aaron Serotsky, as the King, Kate Gleason, as the Princess, and Laura Heisler, January Murelli, Jason Henning, and Steven Cole Hughes as their retinue, the staging of their group scenes yields mixed results (with the interactions of the men and women generally showing little chemistry, while the Russian masquerade, Michael Santo's dry-witted Boyet, the men's forswearing of their oaths, and the Princess' final speech being the highlights).

Photo of (L to R) Tony Church as Holofernes, John Hutton as Don Adriano de Armado and Randy Moore as Nathaniel
(L to R) Tony Church as
Holofernes, John Hutton as Don
Adriano de Armado and Randy
Moore as Nathaniel
Photo credit: Terry Shapiro
Another saving grace of this production is the crowd-pleasing work by the commedia dell'arte elements: John Hutton as Armado, the bragging soldier; Gary Culig as Moth, the zanni who regularly accompanies the braggart; Randy Moore as Nathaniel, the parasite; David Ivers as Costard, the rustic; and Tony Church as Holofernes, the pedant.

Finally, the craft work of the production is exemplary, in particular: The mood of Michael Brown's idyllic set captures both the idealism of the Lyceum and the romance of the pastoral life—a cross between Monticello and Maxville Parrish; and Gary Grundei's musical compositions and Craig Breitenbach's sound design, from the opening French ballad through the simple, yet thoughtful scene segues, to the final accompaniment of the playwright's own poetry, remain unobtrusive while enhancing the action.

Written shortly before Romeo and Juliet (remember Romeo forswears Rosaline after he meets Juliet?), Love's Labor's Lost gives the first hint of the themes de Vere will later develop concerning romantic love.

The Denver Center Theatre Company's production of Love's Labor's Lost runs through March 1st. 303-893-4100.

Bob Bows

 

Current Reviews | Home | Webmaster