Monday, July 14, 2014

Love’s Labour’s Lost—Post 5 Theatre—NE Portland

Battle of the Sexes

This lesser known Shakespearean comedy is directed by Avital Shira and is playing in their outdoor Courtyard theatre at 850 NE 81st Ave. through August 3rd.  Best get there early, as parking is only on neighborhood streets and space in the Courtyard is limited (and bring your own seating, too, e.g. blankets, chairs, etc.).  For more information visit http://postfivetheatre.wix.com/post5-theatre

As in most Shakespearean comedies, this has gender-bender roles, disguised identities, mixed messages, comedic characters & intervals and moonstruck lovers, who seem to be spending most of the play at odds with each other, than connected.  But without all those prostrations and frustrations, there would simply be no story, or a rather dull one, at best.


In this offering, the young men in question have chosen to forgo love/women, to fast and concentrate on study for three years.  The women in question are concentrating their wiles on getting the men to change their minds.  The leader of the pack is King Ferdinand (Will Steele) with his faithful fellow wolves, Berowne (Jim Vadala), Dumaine (Hans Eleveld), and Longaville (Max Maller).

Their respective mates, in this lovers’ game, are the Princess (Danielle Frimer) and her vixens, Rosaline (Jessica Tidd), Katherine (Jordin Bradley) and Maria (Allison Rangel), as well as their ever-present chaperon, Boyet (Ithica Tell).  But when this games afoot, the players include an inept policeman, Dull (again, Eleveld), the pseudo-scholars, Holifernes (again, Maller) & Sir Nathaniel (again, Rangel), an inept French soldier, Don Armado (Jean-Luc Boucherot) and his boy, Moth (again, Bradley).  And let’s not forget the besot servants, Costard (Jeff Painter) and his female counter-part, the foxy, Jacquenetta (Danielle Chaves).

The story is almost inconsequential in the telling and, to be frank, definitely one of the Bard’s lesser efforts.  But in the pursuit of love (or lust), anything is possible and everything is plausible.  But there are some curious, original byways the plot explores.

The period seems to be in the time that England occupied part of France (around the time-frame of The Lion In Winter) and therefore has a rather serious setting to the frivolities.  The ending speaks of the gravity of this situation.  And, although the lovers in this tale are pretty standard for Willy S., the comedic characters shine.  And, another interesting note, that although things do reach a climax of sorts, nothing is completely resolved, as “Jack does get his Jill”…sort of.

None of the criticisms reflect on the production itself, but on the light-weight script.  The direction by Shira and the performances of her entire cast pull the play from rather mundane to an exceptional example of pros at work (and play).  I love the fact that it is presented on an essentially bare stage, exposing whether a cast can convincingly portray a story without the pretty pageantry of expensive sets and costumes.  This cast is up to that task and succeed admirably!

And the duel playing of roles is tricky at best but Eleveld, Maller, Bradley and Rangel do an exceptional job of the balancing act between the two, and do it so well that there is no residue from one role to the other, as they are that good in the transformations.  And Tell is always a stand-out in whatever roles she plays.

Maller’s Holofernes is a scream and a highlight of the show.  Chaves is lovely to look at and has a lovely voice to match.  And Boucherot almost steals the show as the smitten, French soldier (with an authentic accent to match).  He is a delight, as they all are.
I recommend this show and on a warm summer night, sipping wine and eating chicken on a blanket next to a loved one, watching an entertaining show, as one can truly, “…let the world slide.”  If you do choose to see it, please tell them that Dennis sent you.