Love’s labor– the royal pain of getting the person you love to love you back– lies at the heart of William Shakespeare’s farcical play Love’s Labour’s Lost, produced by the Long Beach Shakespeare Company (LBSC), directed by Helen Borgers and Brandon Alexander Cutts and continuing at the Richard Goad Theatre through Sept. 16.
The King of Navarre (Jesse Seann Atkinson) and his lordly crew– Dumaine (RJ Brownfield), Longaville (David J. Klick, Jr.) and very clever wordsmith Berowne (Zachary Cantrell)– find themselves in a pickle.
On the one hand, each has vowed to see no woman for three years in order to become more scholarly. On the other hand, having made an exception to greet a visiting party of women, they are all now smitten.
The Princess of France (Megan Lennon) has arrived with her coterie of attending ladies: Katharine (Ruby Morales), Maria (Emily Hensen) and the skeptical Rosaline (Jessica Acuri). The ladies, while swooning themselves, are determined not to make it easy for the men, whom they believe are insincere.
Sarah Hoeven is stellar as go-between Boyet, who seems to enjoy the increasingly elaborate hide-and-seek wooing on both sides. And love’s labor certainly becomes increasingly demanding, with the men engaging in high-spirited, acrobatic Russian dancing while in disguise.
As if all this weren’t enough, extra comedy in the forms of “fantastical” Spanish knight Don Adriano de Armado (Leonardo Lerma), in love with “country wench” Jaquenetta (Taylor Ann Tracy); messenger Costard the clown (an engaging Mason Meskell), in lust with Jaquenetta; and dimwitted Constable Dull (Rebecca Moger), all serve to keep the messages of love, and the very meaning of love, sufficiently mixed up.
Moreover, staid schoolmaster (Kevin McGrath) and well spoken curate (Amy Paloma Welch) also become involved in interpreting the poems and prose notes that fly from hand to hand. Along with the clown and young singing page Moth (Garrett Martinez), the two learned figures are recruited into the Spaniard’s hopelessly miscast pageant– a play within the play designed to entertain the lovers.
The number of characters makes the play feel luxurious in length– with a bonus ending incorporating an elaborate dance and tableaus by all 16 actors. Adding to the luxury are elegant period costumes (choreography and costuming by Ramzi Jneid) and an enchanting leafy-green set (Tim Leach).
Most of the actors are talented LBSC veterans as impressive in this production as any previous one. Zachary Cantrell stands out as the sprightly Berowne, whom the other men fear and respect for the force and wit of his words.
And there are lots of words! Through all its entangled dialogue, the play seems to make fun of traditional love poetry’s clichés, such as cupid’s arrow, love versus lust and how women are described in sonnets. (The play was written for royals, who may have appreciated the sendup.)
Love’s Labour’s Lost may only have been produced twice in Shakespeare’s time, and for nobles only. So treat yourself to some regal entertainment, and a whole lot of silliness, in this delightful production all about love’s convolutions.
Love’s Labour’s Lost continues at the Richard Goad Theatre, 4250 Atlantic Ave., through Sept. 16, with shows Fridays (except Sept. 1) and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm. Tickets are $12.50 to $22.50. For tickets and information, call (562) 997-1494 or visit LBShakespeare.org.