Monday, July 28, 2014

Love’s Labour’s Lost—Bag & Baggage Theatre—Hillsboro, OR

Such Is Life

This Shakespearean comedy is being performed outdoors at the Tom Hughes Civic Center Plaza, 253 E. Main St. through August 9th.  It is directed and adapted by Scott Palmer, Artistic Director for B&B.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503- 345-9590.

A little dose of La Doce Vita; an dash of an obscure, restoration play called, The Students; a large lathering of slapstick, physical comedy; a healthy dab of Laurel & Hardy; and, oh yes, a gallon or two of Shakespeare, and you have this rendering of Love’s Labor’s Lost.  This is the second showing of this play this summer, the first one being at Post 5 earlier.

If you need a plot, here it is in brief:  The King, Ferdinand of Navarre (Andrew Beck), and his bosom buddies, Berowne (Chip Sherman) and Longaville (Luke Armstrong) have foresworn love (ladies) and will concentrate their efforts on scholarly pursuits and clean living for three years.  Only thing standing in their way is the arrival of a Princess of France (Cassie Greer) and her lovely ladies, Rosaline (Arinanne Jacques) and Maria (Jessi Walters), as well as their ever-present, unique chaperon, Boyet (Dallas Meyers).  But other characters conspire to make this complex menagerie even more complicated.  A bulky, Spanish Knight, Armado (Gary Strong) and his inept page, Moth (Adam Syron), both have eyes and hearts for a wily, peasant girl named, Jacquenetta (Rachel Rosenfeld).

With some mistaken mix-ups of messages meant for the merry mistresses from these bawdy, bosom bodies, the love games are afoot.  With much wrangling and trepidation, the battles conclude with a type of truce with no true winners in sight.  About half the characters are missing from Shakespeare’s rendition of the story but they are not really missed in this more stream-lined version of the story.  It is not unusual for directors to mix and match various folios (versions) of his plays and incorporate from his source materials, as well, as none of the Bard’s stories were original.  Palmer is very adept at this, having done the same kind of cutting and re-assembling with his Lear.

In this case, the play’s not the thing, as it is the presentation that is superior, all thanks to Palmer.  His use of physical comedy, movement, acrobatics and dance (Anne Mueller) is absolutely extraordinary!  The actors’ use of the language is musical to listen to but also very conversational in its deliveries.  And the whole thing is done on a bare stage, in a courtyard outside, with some amazing, 60-ish costumes (Melissa Heller).  It is definitely a brassy, bawdy show for a mid-summer’s night.

Sherman is wonderful in his movements and soliloquies.  I have seen him in many other shows and he is always superior.  Greer has an alto voice (ala, Lauren Bacall) which is very alluring and coupled with her long body, is very sexy.  And Myers, as the effeminate guardian of this brood, is a scream, as his poses and postures himself is some very undignified ways.

But the casting of Strong and Syron as the Laurel & Hardy-ish comic team were the scene stealers.  It was amazing what they could do with their bodies.  They are a delight and make an already great show even better.  Strong, in particular, has some tremendous comedic talent as he masters a host of gestures, expressions and movements on his bulky frame and makes it so graceful.  Bravo to them and the whole cast, which were marvelous!

I highly recommend this show.  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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