★★★☆☆ - Satisfying
The Nevada Conservatory Theatre (NCT) presents a satisfying 3-Star production of Shakespeare's "Love's Labour's Lost" at the Judy Bayley Theatre (Nov. 30 - Dec. 9).
One of Shakespeare's earliest comedies, “Love’s Labour’s Lost” (written around 1594-95) details a pact made by the King of Navarre and three of his courtiers who swear off women in order to focus their energies on intellectual pursuits. The oath is quickly forgotten, however, following the appearance of the Princess of France and her entourage.
The play has all the hallmarks of a Shakespeare comedy: Letters are misdirected, disguises are donned and secret soliloquies are overheard by others. There’s a show within the show, and a few fools to keep the humor high. And through it all is that wonderful wit: wordplay in which “Shakespeare seems to seek the limits of his verbal resources, and discovers that there are none,” to quote the scholar Harold Bloom.
“Love’s Labour’s Lost” is unique in the Shakespeare canon because so much of its action relies on formal groupings of characters. In the main plot the courtly groups of men and women function very much as gender-defined units in a battle of the sexes that ultimately exposes the immaturity and pretentiousness of the young men.
Several of the male characters in the comic subplot are drawn from ancient comic traditions. The word “fool” is a technical term in Shakespeare’s plays. The fool in Elizabethan drama is someone employed to entertain a king or a duke or any other rich person who needs someone to entertain him. The convention in Elizabethan drama is that the fool is the most insightful and intelligent man in the play -- not to be confused with a clown who, in Shakespeare’s time was a simple rural man – a yokel.
These more exaggerated comic characters – which can be traced back to classic Roman comedy and the Italian commedia dell’arte tradition – are well characterized in this production: the braggart soldier (or miles gloriosus), Don Adriano de Armado (Equity Actor Jonathan Smoots) is a fantastical Spaniard who is at the center of the play's comic subplot, the courtship of Jaquenetta. Costard (Guest Artist Brandon Burk), the earthy slave (one of Shakespeare’s clowns), is an unsophisticated country bumpkin with an underlying shrewdness, who vies with Don Armado for Jaquenetta; Holofernes (UNLV senior Noah Keeling) is the stereotypical pedantic schoolmaster, conceited and quick to dismiss those he perceives as intellectually inferior, the commedia dell’arte figure of the Doctor.
Every company member handled the text “trippingly on the tongue”. Additional ensemble members include: Keach Siriani-Madden as King Ferdinand of Navarre; Delius Doherty as Berowne; Aimé Green as Longaville; Jacob Noble as Dumaine; Sarah Rice as The Princess of France; Amanda Guardado as Rosaline; Sydney Story as Maria; Gabrielle Silveroli as Katherine; Myles Lee as Boyet; Jacob Sidhom as Moth; Nicole Holbrook as Jaquenetta; Dawson Mullen as Dull; Ryan Baker as Sir Nathanial; and Johann Heske as Monsieur Marcade.
The Bard’s canon is tough work, certainly, but that is precisely why it continues to be essential knowledge and training for actors today. Luckily, Shakespeare continues to be the mostly widely taught playwright for actors and students around the world. Director and Guest Artist, Sandy Ernst, brings her considerable directing and teaching experience to bear in keeping the action moving across scenic designer Trevor Dotson’s royal outdoor courtyard of Navarre in the Pyrenees. Costume designer Katie Dennis admirably dressed the players in 1918 period attire. Lighting designer Andy Killion, along with sound designers Rosalie Chaleunsouck and Kaliah Silva, seamlessly supported time, place, and atmosphere throughout.
The Shakespeare Society’s artistic director, Michael Sexton, has said that “Becoming familiar and acquainted with Shakespeare’s work is good for any human being. It’s good for the soul. If one gets the opportunity to perform Shakespeare at a high level, it’s a privilege and an enormous joy. It’s one of the things that only we in the theater can do.”
Photos by: Katie Dennis Design