Love’s Labour’s not Lost: Shimmering Wordplay at Marin Shakes’ Forest Meadows

We are told by Robert Currier, before the opening curtain, that Love’s Labour’s Lost is one of Shakespeare’s less frequently produced plays, given that it is one of the Bard’s earliest, and thus presumably one of his least well-accomplished.

This production gives the lie to that conceit.  As much as anything, in this production, the play’s the thing.  Shakespeare’s unending torrent of drollery, or misapplied latinisms and tumbling malaprops, his convoluted chains of logic and word upon word of wordplay, demand as much of the actors as the gestures and blocking, and even more of the audience to catch hold of and follow the verbal action.  Think of the rapier-like back-and-forth of a ‘30s Cary Grant romance, with the witticisms spread around throughout the cast.

Each of the characters brings in a unique barbequing of the language, all done up with heroic glee and impeccable timing, thanks to the sure hand of director Rob Clare.  This would be a place for hamming in the extreme, were it not for the extreme concentration to keep it all flowing.  Imagine a train heavily freighted, with one car in the middle suddenly missing, and the two ends thus hopelessly adrift from each other.

As this is an ensemble comedy, to call attention to any one of the suite of talented actors is to do a disservice to all the others.  Even so, one can hardly overlook Braedyn Youngberg’s over-the-top glitz as Don Armando, the subtle shrewdness of Amy Lizardo’s Costard, or the wholly underplayed bits by constable Dull (Daniel Rubio).  Or Patrick Russel’s Biron, or Steve Price’s Holofernes, or. . . .but I digress.

The plot, as in many of the Bard’s comedies, makes so little rational sense that any attempt at explaining it is doomed to failure.  Suffice to say that it involves four young university men who have sworn off the company of ladies for the span of four years, only to find their oaths challenged to the breaking point by four lovely damsels blessed with a biting wit.

And, there is music.  It’s withheld until the very end, after a tragic moment draws the hilarity to a muted end, when the loveliest of three-part harmonies takes breathtaking flight.  Other songs follow, and of course the four young couples plan to make their lives together—after the holding pattern of a full year’s abstinence.

The curtain falls on this light note; what happens next must be told in another play.  You might have to wait a while for a chance to see this one done again, and even if you do you’ll be missing this hilariously entertaining production.

Through September 24, 2017

At Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, Dominican University, San Rafael CA

Marin Shakespeare:  Box Office

Review by David Hirzel