Love’s Labour Lost
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Thomas Ouellette
Starring Buddy Haardt, Christian Ryan, Aubrey Saverino, and Kathryn Miller
Orlando Shakespeare Theatre
“Love’s Labour’s Lost” (or “L3” as I like to call it) is not one of the bard’s scripts where you need to worry much about the story line. Intellectual King Ferdinand (Haardt) talks his three buddies Biron (Ryan), Longaville (Matthew Goodrich) and Dumaine (Blaine Edwards) into a pact: they will live the monastic life for three years studying, fasting, and eschewing women. This is a pact that sounds good after a few beers, but in the cold light of morning it’s clearly a Monumentally Bad Idea. Never mind who will run the mythical kingdom too small or too broke to be worth attacking; there’s the pressing issue of an embassy from the French princess (Savarino). Look, she is out in the yard with three sparkly handmaidens, and vows be damned, there’s classy babes in the front yard. But Ferdinand, doofuss that he is, forces the girls to camp out. Stupid vows! These guys haven’t spent a single night doing vows, and they are already ready to party.
Yes, it’s a fluffy coincidence pie, and thankfully director Ouellette has edited out an hour’s worth of stuff he didn’t understand. And if HE didn’t get those jokes, think how lost the rest of us would be. But these old comedies are really nothing but a spring board for us moderns to show off stage tricks and sexual innuendo. We find long time artistic director Jim Helsinger in a rare stage appearance. He’s the fatuous Don Adriano de Armado, a mix of Salvador Dali and Don Quixote, twirling his mustache, masticating the English language and impregnating a peasant girl. Ryan is the comic head waiter here with slicked hair and a Lothario’s moustache. A conniver, he’s also the only man of reason on stage and even as straight man he pulls more than his share of laughs. Ms. Savarino reminds me of Carol Burnett; shes tall and elegant and sharp with her comic timing. The peasant comedian Costard (Jacob Dresh) nails the physical stuff and shines brightest as Hector in the “Nine Worthy’s” speech, while Eric Eichenlaub gets much better lines here than he did in Gatsby.
All of this silliness is set in a classy 1920’s Art Deco set that doubles For Gatsby’s world in this rep performance. A small rotating stage is put to good use; I really loved how the French ambassadors popped in early as a moving tableaux. An under-used Philip Nolen demonstrated lawn bowling with the aid of an audience member, and director Ouellette wisely went over the top with the multiple males all shadowing each other in a garden late in the show. There’s no real moral here beyond “No sex? Is THAT what abstinence is?” but the effect is lovely. There’s plenty of royal blood swashing around out in the real world; grab this bit of escapism while it’s still here.
For more information on Orlando Shakespeare Theater, visit http://www.orlandoshakes.org