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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Love's Labor's Lost

Also see Susan's review of The Faculty Room

Love's Labor's Lost is not considered one of the major plays of William Shakespeare, which allows directors and designers to take some liberties with it and not feel sacrilegious. Washington's Shakespeare Theatre Company has moved Shakespeare's witty and poetic battle of the sexes into the swinging 1960s, to delightful effect.

Director Michael Kahn has taken his inspiration from the period when celebrities, notably the Beatles, discovered eastern mysticism and studied with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at his ashram in India. Shakespeare's play concerns four young noblemen seeking escape from their everyday cares into an ascetic world of fasting and study, and the unexpected intrusion of a French princess and her retinue into this monastic society.

In Kahn's vision, King Ferdinand of Navarre (Amir Arison) is a wealthy Indian prince who opens his estate to spiritual pilgrims, and his guests are the members of a wildly popular American rock band: Berowne (Hank Stratton), lead guitar; Dumaine (Aubrey Deeker), guitar; and Longaville (Erik Steele), drums. The change in setting also allows composer Adam Wernick to set the characters' writings to tunes reminiscent of the period, adding to the general high spirits.

When the Princess of France (Claire Lautier) arrives with her ladies-in-waiting, they're riding Vespa scooters color-coordinated with their form-fitting jumpsuits. In later scenes, they wear sleek mini-dresses, white go-go boots, and gauzy peasant-style gowns. What's more important, they are at least as self-assured as the men, and certainly more determined to get what they want.

The shift in eras offers other pleasures as well. Costard (Michael Milligan), one of Shakespeare's rustic clowns, translates beautifully into a perpetually stoned hippie, and Boyet (Floyd King), an attendant to the Princess, is as much a fashion victim as the women, specifically in a flowered jacket and vivid red slacks. Catherine Zuber designed the sumptuous and eye-filling costumes, which also have their laugh-out-loud moments, notably, the "Russian" disguises for the young men.

Kahn's actors embrace the musicality of Shakespeare's language, also maintaining clarity throughout the convolutions of the plot. Arison and Stratton give impassioned performances, and Geraint Wyn Davies is blissfully over-the-top as Spanish nobleman Don Adriano de Armado.

Ralph Funicello has created a beautiful, diorama-like setting of palm trees and tropical foliage, all in vivid tropical colors and trimmed in Indian red and gold.

Shakespeare Theatre Company
Love's Labor's Lost
June 6th – July 30th
By William Shakespeare
King Ferdinand of Navarre: Amir Arison
Berowne: Hank Stratton
Longaville: Erik Steele
Dumaine: Aubrey Deeker
Princess of France: Claire Lautier
Rosaline: Sabrina LeBeauf
Maria: Angela Pierce
Katherine: Colleen Delany
Boyet, an attendant of the Princess: Floyd King
Don Adriano de Armado: Geraint Wyn Davies
Moth: Nick Choksi
Holofernes, a schoolmaster: Ted van Griethuysen
Sir Nathaniel, a curate: David Sabin
Anthony Dull, a constable: Rock Kohli
Costard: Michael Milligan
Jaquenetta: Jolly Abraham
Forester: James Rana
Monsieur Marcadé: Leo Erickson
Sitar Player: Brian Q. Silver
Servants and others attending the Princess and the King, played by the Ensemble: Jordan Coughtry, Blake Ellis, Kunal Nayyar, Nicholas Urda, Ryan Young
Directed by Michael Kahn
450 7th St. N.W.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or www.shakespearetheatre.org


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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