One of Shakespeare’s earliest comedies, “Love’s Labour’s Lost” is not among the Bard’s most popular works. In many ways a homage to language — both praising and mangling it — the play’s frankly silly plotline, based on an impossible oath to ascetism, study, celibacy and lack of sleep, makes it difficult to perform and among the least likely to appeal to modern auds. It is, therefore, a surprising choice for Marti Maraden as her final Shakespeare offering as artistic director of the NAC’s English theater. It is equally surprising that this 18th-century-set staging overcomes the obstacles posed by the script to deliver a highly entertaining, lively and visually appealing production.
John Pennoyer’s costumes are breathtakingly lovely and his simple set — ideal for a thrust stage — offers stylized reminders of the pastoral that complement the light tone of Maraden’s and assistant director Ken Godmere’s concept. Both the tableaux and the flowing movement are wonderfully served by the design, music and choreography.
Popular on Variety
Standouts among the performers in a quality ensemble, particularly in terms of their ability to make iambic pentameter trip off the tongue as natural speech, are Ben Carlson’s Berowne, the most logical of the King of Navarre’s fallen ascetics; Yanna McIntosh as Rosaline, the object of his affections; Kelli Fox as the Princess of France, Navarre’s downfall; and David William, the Princess’ serving man.
David Schurmann, as burbling schoolmaster Holofernes, and Juan Chorian, as master of malapropisms Don Armado, have fun as Shakespeare takes digs through them at the verbose misuse of language.
Part of the NAC’s mandate is to showcase the nation’s best performers. The mandate also focuses on presenting developing and local artists, a charge Maraden has always taken particularly to heart. She has made a point of creating an ensemble of experienced and emerging performers in her classical productions at the NAC, and the result here is especially successful.
In short, the labor that was expended has made this loving production a winner.