Ensemble gives new lfe to Love's Labour's Lost
Love's Labour's Lost
Shakespeare Ensemble at MIT.
Directed by Kermit Dunkelberg.
Written by William Shakespeare.
Starring William Hartnett '94, and Stephanie Gellar '94
La Sala de Puerto Rico
March 10-12, 17-19By Gretchen Koot
Most people have their introduction to Shakespeare in the classroom, and I think that is partially responsible for the view of his plays as lofty and inaccessible. In Kermit Dunkelberg's direction of Love's Labour's Lost, this common high school experience is used to ground the play and lead the audience into what is Shakespeare at his bawdy, irreverent best. In the pre-show, students wander into a classroom and take there places. On the board is written a quote referring to Love's Labour's Lost, "If we were to part with any of the author's comedies it should be this." When the teacher, played with frenetic glee by Anne Dudfield '95, begins to discuss the play, she makes it seem as dry and lifeless as a play read as literature can be, missing all of the intended humor. This should ring a bell with anyone who suffered through classroom analysis of Shakespeare.
The teacher then leaves and instructs her students to read the play. We watch as they groan, scratch their heads, and listlessly turn pages. Then suddenly one of the students (William Hartnett '94) jumps into the role of Ferdinand, King of Navarre, and we are spring-boarded into the play. It seems that King Ferdinand and his attending lords Longaville (Justin Miller '97) and Berowne (Albert Fischer '94) have pledged to devote themselves to study for a period of three years without the intrusion of such physical pleasures as adequate sleep, enough food, or the company of women (a familiar scenario to many MIT students).
Of course, since observing the men easily remaining true to their oaths would be uninteresting, three beautiful women soon enter the king's court. The Princess of France (Stephanie Gellar '94) and her two attending ladies, Maria (Rosa Ren '94) and Rosaline (Denise Kung G), come on an errand from the King of France. The three men are immediately smitten and so begins the joy of watching them writhe in love's sweet agony.
It is Berowne's suffering that we see first. When first bitten by the love bug he protests, denying cupid's power over him. His dreamy-eyed monologue is as familiar as it is funny. Here, Fischer's performance was especially remarkable. His gesticulating and posturing made the sometimes remote language of the play as easy to follow as Mr. Rogers'. If I might have forgotten exactly what a codpiece was, Fischer's gesture served as ample reminder (It is a pouch on men's pants which covers the crotch area.). And this is how the play should be seen. The reference would have been commonplace to an audience in Shakespeare's time, and the humor might have been lost without Fischer's Michael Jackson impression.
The antics of Don Adriano De Armado (Orin Percus G) and his page, Moth (James Kirtley G), break up the main action of the play. Both Percus and Kirtley fill their roles as buffoons admirably. Percus' body language as he struts about the stage is enough to provoke a belly laugh. Don Adriano is also love-struck, and his ramblings about love and lust take the foolishness to new heights.
Elizabeth Stoehr '96 is equally hilarious in her role as Boyet, the servant to the Princess of France. Boyet's biting sarcasm is wonderful. He is the only person completely removed from love's circle and so is best suited to pointing out the ridiculous behavior of the other characters.
The set, while not elaborate, made a convincing classroom thanks to the labors of the set designers, Maria Redin '96 and Bill Fregosi.
The action is accompanied with piano music composed by Adrian Childs '94 and performed beautifully by Michael Valdez SM '93. The music was never intrusive and complemented the action nicely. The playful tones provided a vaudeville atmosphere when appropriate and a more solemn one when necessary.
Overall, this production of Love's Labour's Lost makes Shakespeare's often raunchy humor easily accessible and thoroughly enjoyable. Several modern references are interspersed with the original text - there is a Dan Quayle joke tucked in there - and breathe fresh life into this wonderful, dusty old play.