Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Love's Labour's Lost
Southwest Shakespeare Company
Review by Gil Benbrook

Also see Gil's recent reviews of Head Over Heels and Alan Cumming Is Not Acting His Age

The Cast
Photo by Devon Christopher Adams
In addition to presenting a full season of plays, Southwest Shakespeare Company prides itself on their educational programs, which include numerous school matinee performances of their main stage productions as well as producing a show each season that is specifically created for in-school performances and tours around the state throughout the school season. Love's Labour's Lost is the company's touring school production this year and last weekend it played for four sold-out public performances at Taliesin West. With a talented cast of young adults who are all quite proficient in creating characters and in delivering the demands of a Shakespearean comedy, it proved to be a fast and fun frolic and an entirely charming production of one of Shakespeare's earliest comedies.

The plot is fairly simple. The King of Navarre and three of his male constituents take a mutual oath that for three years they will avoid the company of women in order to devote themselves to studying. Almost as quickly as they've all signed their pledge and that the king has declared that no woman should come within a mile of the court, the Princess of France and her female attendants arrive on a diplomatic mission to discuss the status of Aquitaine. As romantic sparks fly, and mistaken identities and mixed-up letters cause confusion, the men find they may just lose the battle of knowledge over romance.

While Shakespeare purists may scoff at the shortened version, the 80-minute condensed adaptation by director Steve Abaroa makes for a fast-paced production even though it also means some of the supporting characters are reduced to almost cameos and several subplots are eliminated or minimized. Abaroa set the production in the 1930s which work well for the madcap nature of the comedy and his direction kept the plot sharp and the slightly convoluted subplots fairly clear.

There wasn't a weak link in the cast, which included John Pene and Elizabeth Broeder, who were regal and commanding as the king and princess, respectively, and Sam McInerney was charming Berowne, one of the men who signed the agreement who is somewhat skeptical of the king's idea to forego female companionship. Nathan Gayan and Paul Nichols were appealing as the two other friends of the king. As Costard, Don Adriano de Armando, and Sir Nathaniel, Spencer Beckwith, Johnny Kalita, and Ian Nussle provided the majority of the comic relief in the play, and all three were quite good in creating humorous characters. LaToshia Hill was very good and winning as Boyet, the princess' main counsel. Ksjusha Povod, Briyannah Simmons, and Sarah White were fun as the princess' three female attendants, and Sawyer Wolter was appropriately feisty as the local country girl Jaquenetta.

The simple set design used six rotating flats to quickly change the scenes, and the costume design from Emily Hasty and hair and makeup designs from Juliana Jackson delivered beautiful 1930s elements. Peter Bish's sound design and Stacey Walston's lighting worked well for the Taliesin venue. In addition to playing the Princess of France, Elizabeth Broeder also choreographed two fun dance moments in the show.

Southwest Shakespeare Company's Love's Labour's Lost made for a winning, quick, and fun comical romp and should also prove to be a great introduction to Shakespeare and live theatre for school students and younger theatregoers.

Love's Labour's Lost played November 17-20 at Taliesin West, located at 12345 N Taliesin Drive, Scottsdale AZ. Tickets for future productions and information on how to book the school tour of this adaptation can be found at

Director: Steve Abaroa
Asst. Director: Cameron Abaroa
Dance Choreographer: Elizabeth Broeder
Costume Designer: Emily Hasty
Hair & Makeup Designer: Juliana Jackson
Sound Designer: Peter Bish
Lighting Designer: Stacey Walston
Props Designer: Beau Heckman
Stage Manager: Dylan Prentis
Technical Director: Stacey Walston
Master Carpenter: Chase Budden

Costard: Spencer Beckwith
Princess of France: Elizabeth Broeder
Dumaine/Moth: Nathan Gayan
Boyet: LaToshia Hill
Don Adriano de Armando: Johnny Kalita
Berowne: Sam McInerney
Longaville: Paul Nichols
Sir Nathaniel/Dull: Ian Nussle
The King of Navarre: John Pene
Maria: Ksjusha Povod
Rosaline: Briyannah Simmons
Jaquenetta: Sawyer Wolter
Katherine: Sarah White