CST’s Love’s Labor’s Lost: A Charming Delight

Harold Bloom, Yale’s Sterling Professor of the Humanities, has a particular desire to see Shakespeare’s Love’s Labor’s Lost:

I have never seen a production of this extravagant comedy that could begin to perform to its vocal magnificence, but I always live in hope that some director of genius will yet deliver it to us.

Marti Maraden’s production at Chicago Shakespeare may not satisfy Professor Bloom, but she gives it a good old college try and the results are simply delightful.

Ms. Maraden has assembled a uniformly strong cast, at least familiar with Shakespeare’s linguistic pyrotechnics, and has enlisted the assistance of Chicago’s master Shakespearean actor Larry Yando as verse coach.

John Tufts, so wonderful as Tug of War’s Henry V, plays Ferdinand, King of Navarre. Madison Niederhauser plays Lord Longaville, Julian Hester, so moving as Konstantin in the Artistic Home’s The Seagull, essays Lord Dumaine, while Nate Burger, presents the putative and critical hero of the comedy, Lord Berowne.

All of the lords seem alike in  Christina Poddubiuk’s elegant and repetitive costumes. Only Mr. Burger seems able to take the language and make a distinctive character through it. He fixes upon a strong attitude or disposition or bent for Berowne, and Shakespeare’s language comes alive through the chosen traits. The other lords do not, as yet, seem to have found their distinctive attitudes.

The same holds true for the ladies. Jennie Greenberry ‘s Princess of France, Jennifer Latimore’s Lady Marie, Taylor Blim’s Lady Katherine, and Laura Rook’s Lady Rosaline are as alike in frame of mind as they are in fashion. As a result, they emerge as interchangeable lovelies. What they say is thereby made indistinct.

Examples of how a strong or clear disposition can bring a character’s language to life abound in the lower-class characters.

Alex Goodrich’s Costard almost walks away with the show, so engaging is the disposition the actor chose for his character. The audience simply can’t wait for him to reappear.

New Trier freshman Aaron Lamm likewise presents a vibrant Moth because of the tenor selected through which to reveal the character.

But the highlight of this lovely production comes when the indomitable David Lively, playing the insufferable pedant Holofernes, appears as Judas Maccabeus in a pageant staged for the courtiers. So commanding is this comic turn that he single-handedly brings the show to an uproarious halt. He had the audience in the palm of his hand and could have extended the scene ad infinitum, so in love was the audience with Mr. Lively’s show-stopping performance.

All of this loving and educating occurs on Kevin Depinet’s breath-taking set. Mr. Depinet has time after time – Cyrano de Bergerac, Smokefall, Sense and Sensibility, The Heir Apparent–  demonstrated what an artistic treasure he is to Chicago theater.

Shakespeare may have written Love’s Labor’s Lost shortly after the deaths of playwrights Robert Greene and Christopher Marlowe and perhaps even after burying his only son Hamnet

Consequently, death suddenly invades the pastoral action, as it must have the playwright’s life, sending the lovers off in a somber mood, vowing to let time mature the young men before they reacquaint themselves with the ladies who have smitten them.

The Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Love’s Labor’s Lost is a gentle, pastoral, delightful play, a welcome relief from the rancor, now, unfortunately, seemingly a permanent part of everyday life.

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