Love’s Labor’s Lost
Jonny Orsini as Ferdinand, King of Navarre and Pascale Armand as Rosaline.

Love’s Labor’s Lost

Shakespeare's clowns in love.

By William Shakespeare
Directed by Kathleen Marshall
The Old Globe San Diego
August 14 – September 18
website

Here’s a suggestion: Take a three year break from sins of the flesh, as well as fine food and even sleep, to pursue academics. What, no takers? Welcome to “Love’s Labor’s Lost.”

This ‘intellectual vacation’ is the brain child of Ferdinand, King of Navarre (Jonny Orsini), who recruits the lords Dumaine (Amara James Aja), Longaville (Nathan Whitmer) and Berowne (Kieran Campion). Misery does love company.

You can almost hear the record scratch when the beautiful princess of France (Kristen Connolly) shows up with her ladies Katherine (Talley Beth Gale), Maria (Amy Blackman) and Rosaline (Pascale Armand) – boys and girls, perfectly symmetrical. Time for a new plan.

This early Shakespeare is less about story than it is about clowning and that makes it hilarious. The four lords are all clowns in love – the onstage cartwheels may be the least clownish thing they do.

Then there’s Costard (Greg Hildreth) who is caught with dairy maid Jaquenetta (Makha Mthembu) and exudes abashed defiance. Dull, the constable (Jake Millgard) lives up to his name. Boyet (Kevin Cahoon), one of the princess’s attendants, is both cutting and fabulous. Pedantic Holofernes (Stephen Spinella) spouts dog Latin and overanalyzes both people and situations. Don Adriano de Armado (Triney Sandoval), a Spanish braggart, and his page Moth (Daniel Petzold) take everything over the top.

With all this comedy firepower, it’s hard to pick a favorite, though Hildreth’s Costard and Spinella’s Holofernes anchor the two poles. Costard is a happy vulgarian who gets by on excuses and joie de vivre. Holofernes is a dullard in fancy robes, flaunting his erudition, if not his intelligence. The introspective pauses are just delicious.

The story makes no sense at all, but the word play alone is worth the price of admission. Malapropisms fly in all directions. The beautiful park set is lush with foliage – the better to conceal eavesdropping lords – and a well-used statue of Cupid and Venus.

Broadway vet Kathleen Marshall brings the fun – from bawdy poses to hilarious reveals. She makes great use of her impressive cast and the laughs flow.

True, the play takes a darker turn towards the end – the ‘lost’ part. But never mind that, the Globe has put together an excellent production that still has me chuckling.

San Diego,
Josh Baxt has an MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University and writes for a local nonprofit. His play, Like a War, was produced for the annual Fritz litz. Josh's short fiction has been published in the anthologies Sunshine Noir and Hunger and Thirst, as well as the journal City Works.