Thursday, November 05, 2009

Love’s Labour’s Lost

Elizabethan bandShakespeare’s Globe
Love’s Labour’s Lost
Cal Performances
Zellerbach Hall, Berekeley
Wed, Nov 4, 8 pm

This lively production of Love’s Labour’s Lost from Shakespeare’s Globe attractively recreates the look of the Elizabethan stage. There are no modern lighting effects, & the cast is in luxurious Renaissance dress. It also strives to embrace the audience, starting with an Elizabethan band playing music in the lobby. Inside the theater a life-size deer puppet roams the aisles, as if we’re at the Lion King. Actors often make their entrances through the auditorium. Unfortunately the cavernous Zellerbach Hall works against this approach by seating much of the audience far from the stage.

It’s a highly physical production, with almost as many visual jokes as verbal ones. A hunting dance for the men, of stomping & jumping, was a highlight. Indeed, much of the stage business for the teamed-up ladies & lords approaches dance. I liked just watching the way Philip Cumbus moved as the King of Navarre. Trystan Gravelle was beguiling as Berowne & hilariously frazzled when he was undone in the letter scene. Michelle Terry can’t be ignored as a firm-willed yet mad-cap Princess of France. Her sudden change of emotion when receiving Marcade’s news was stunning & moving. The diminutive Fergal McElhernon had a new set of wacky moves for each of his appearances as the randy Costard. Paul Ready’s Don Armado was unexpectedly melancholy & lethargic, & he strangely reminded me of someone I know.

Despite the virtual absence of a plot, the production had a sense of building towards climaxes, especially in the 2nd half. I loved its promising start with a series of fart jokes. The pageant of the Nine Worthies ends with an exciting brawl & food fight. The only problem I had was with the dense Elizabethan language. There were frequent stretches of rapid dialogue that I could not decode. What’s all this about a moral & its l’envoy? The audience seemed to laugh at the right places, though I wonder how many could say what was going on. The lady next to me consumed 2 bottled soft drinks during the 1st half & did not return from intermission.

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