by William Shakespeare
Bard on the Beach
June 15-Sept. 24

Okay, I have to lay my cards on the table. I just don’t get this play or why Bard on the Beach needs to do it again so soon after its 1997 production. One of Shakespeare’s earliest comedies, Love’s Labour’s Lost is also his most formal, rhetorical and least funny. The Novice Playwright Who Would Later Become the Bard plays Mr. Showoff here and is hoist on his own petard.

To satirize the folly of pedantry in love and language, he has his characters speak in clunky rhyme, read three long letters (what could be less dramatically interesting?), recite four bad poems and ridiculous Latinate prose. After almost three hours, skeptic-turned-lover Berowne finally forswears “figures pedantical” and “maggot ostentation” to woo Rosaline straightforwardly, but by then it’s too late for me.

The plot concerns the King of Navarre (Tobias Slezak) and his Lords Berowne (David Mackay), Longaville (Todd Thomson) and Dumaine (David Beazely), who vow to devote themselves to study for three years and never see a woman. That lasts about ten minutes until the Princess of France (Kerry Sandomirsky) comes along with her three Ladies, Rosaline (Jennifer Lines), Maria (Karen Rae) and Katherine (Lara Gilchrist). Each falls in love with each, various battles of wits ensue, and Shakespeare pulls an interesting switcheroo at the end.

The major secondary characters underline the message that the brain is no substitute for the heart. Don Armado (Gerry Mackay), a stage-Spanish soldier in love with peasant girl Jaquenetta (Rebecca Auerbach), translates his feelings into long, fractured English passages of overblown, affected metaphor. Schoolmaster Holofernes (Christopher Weddell) speechifies at great length about Latin definitions and rhetorical devices. Both talented actors work very hard to make this stuff funny, but for the most part their labours are lost.

Not all is lost, though, David Mackay and Scott Bellis, terrific in As You Like It, also shine here. Mackay finds all the grace notes in Berowne’s lover’s soliloquy, and his hypocritical lecturing of his friends about their hypocrisy in love is very funny. Bellis makes the doddering, pipe-sucking Dull the play’s least dull character with wonderful minimalist comic acting.

Jennifer Lines’ Rosaline does good work twisting Berowne into knots, though the women don’t get a lot of quality stage time. Christopher Gaze as comic aristocrat Boyet and Allan Zinyk as comic peasant Costard both have their moments. All the lords and ladies look gorgeous in costumer Mara Gottler’s elegant black and white dresses and beautiful morning suits.

The most entertaining scene in Michael Shamata’s production is the lively, absurd Russian dance, cleverly choreographed by Valerie Easton, done by the guys who come disguised as “Muscovites” to court the gals, who mask themselves to confuse their would-be lovers. Watching the masked actresses navigate the set’s stairs in gowns trailing long trains, though, is scary!

What does it say when the best things in a Shakespeare play are a Russian dance and a character named Dull?

Jerry Wasserman

last updated: Friday, June 24, 2005 11:05 AM
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