Love’s Labor’s Lost

Ferdinand, King of

Ferdinand, King of

Navarre ….. Johnny Lee Davenport

Longaville ….. Ted Hewlett

Dumaine ….. Andrew Borthwick-Leslie

Berowne ….. Allyn Burrows

Dull ….. Manu Narayan

Costard ….. Gerry Bamman

Don Adriano de Armado ….. Dan McCleary

Mote ….. Antonia Freeland

Jacquenetta ….. Christine Calfas

Boyet ….. Dennis Krausnick

Princess of France ….. Tod Randolph

Maria ….. Celia Madeoy

Katharine ….. Carolyn Roberts Berry

Rosaline ….. Corinna May

Forester ….. Walter Campbell

Holofernes ….. Elizabeth Ingram

Sir Nathaniel ….. Peter Wittrock

Marcade/Navarre Citizen ….. Josef Pfitzer

With: Jack Marsh, Dylan Wittrock, Reilly Hadden, Judith McSpadden, Sheila Bandyopadhyay, Ivanna Cullinan, Terri Rzeznik, Kim Tuvin, Veronica Wathome, Curt Klump, Scott Ragle, Ben Lambert, Aaron Lisman, Jeffrey Schoenheit, Katy Kohler Amory, Lori Bashour, Shawn Elinoff, Jean Fitzsimmons, Karen Hallock, Amy Hayes, Meredith Kaunitz, Walt Komorowski, Stephen Kosmicki, Luke Stanhope, Sarah Taylor , Kate Udall.

This early Bard comedy is set outdoors, but it does not necessarily fare well when performed there — if ever a play needed the intimacy and attention-focusing aspects of an indoor theater, “Love’s Labor’s Lost” is it. At best it’s “Love’s Labor’s Lost Lite.” Wordplay and any attempts at establishing relationships vanish into the open air as characters often address one another from vast distances. It isn’t even in the same class as Shakespeare & Co.’s current indoor “Richard III.”

Director Cecil MacKinnon insists on dissipating the play all over the full width and depth of the Mount’s wooded al fresco stage. Lacking a visual focal point, the production more crucially lacks dramatic, emotional and intellectual focus.

Only two members of the large cast come remotely near to fulfilling the verbal demands of the text’s fiercely acrobatic wordplay: Tod Randolph as a commanding, full-voiced Princess of France and Allyn Burrows as a vocally and physically gymnastic Berowne.

Elsewhere, production and performances barely skim the play’s gleaming, sophisticated surface, let alone plumb any of its depths. And, as continues to be the case too often in Shakespearean productions, the comic roles are played too broadly. The fantastical Spaniard Don Adriano (Dan McCleary), for instance, is given a language-murdering accent that goes as far as pronouncing “peace of mind” as “piss of mind.” And Shakespeare’s comically pedantic schoolmaster Holofernes is played by Elizabeth Ingram as a hooting Margaret Rutherford-style schoolmistress.

The role of the Don’s page Mote (Moth in many Shakespeare editions) is played by a woman, Antonia Freeland, and five new characters, a group of young students , also share the character’s lines.

Unlike “Richard III,” which has an utterly absorbing plot, “Love’s Labor’s Lost” relies almost entirely on its soaring, dancing language. Its story consists essentially of four men forswearing women for three years and then succumbing to the first four women who cross their paths. The latter have highly witty fun at the men’s expense, part of the play’s point being that men tend to fall in love with surfaces while women look deeper. All of this is couched in some of Shakespeare’s most glamorously sophisticated language, much of it rhyming, coruscating wordplay.

But its beauty mostly goes for naught in the mouths of actors unable to project it with any skill and amid the inevitable drawbacks of al fresco Shakespeare.

In his recent book “Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human,” Shakespearean devotee and scholar Harold Bloom admits to having a favorite play: “Love’s Labor’s Lost.” He also admits: “Alas, I have never seen a production of this extravagant comedy that could begin to perform to its vocal magnificence.” Shakespeare & Co.’s outdoor attempt doesn’t come close to being that longed-for production.

Love's Labor's Lost

(SHAKESPEARE COMEDY; MAINSTAGE, THE MOUNT; 600 SEATS; $ 31.50 TOP)

Production: LENOX, Mass. A Shakespeare & Co. presentation of the play by William Shakespeare in two acts. Directed by Cecil MacKinnon.

Crew: Set, Jim Youngerman; costumes, Arthur Oliver; lighting, Michael Giannitti; music/sound co-designer, Harold Meltzer; sound co-designer/engineer, Mark Huang; choreographer, Susan Dibble; assistant director/vocal coach, Christine Adaire. Opened, reviewed July 31, 1999. Running time: 2 HOURS, 45 MIN.

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