Ambling out of the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre after Love’s Labor’s Lost, a retired lady asks her husband, “Do you think Shakespeare would have been happy with the show?”
The lush and sensual stage is something out of a Jean-Honoré Fragonard painting from The Progress of Love collection. Where have I seen this artist before? At the Pageant of the Masters last month and in 2015. You may best recognize Fragonard from his 1767 oil on canvas, The Swing. Periodically, a few of the euphoric cast-members swing out of the hedge signifying they are in love.
Director Kathleen Marshall loves French Rococo art, she says in The Old Globe’s Performances magazine. She is inspired by the paintings’ representation of romantic rendezvous’ of secretly meeting in a garden, exchanging letters and pining away over lost love.
One historian says of the French painter, “His colors are not the pigments of a painter, but the suggestions of a poet.” We could say the same of Shakespeare—not just a playwright, but a poet and overall brilliant with words. He obviously was a good listener and observer of conversations particularly involving men.
There is much banter of witticisms and puns between the four men Navarre, Berowne, Longaville and Dumaine (Jonny Orsini, Kieran Campion, Nathan Whitmer and Amara James Aja) as they swear off women and all earthly delights and devote themselves to study. Berowne signs the pact in protest. The dense language continues as the Princess of France arrives with her attendants Rosaline, Maria and Katharine (Kristen Connolly currently in the CBS “Zoo” series, Pascale Armand newly minted Tony Award nominee for her role in Eclipsed, Amy Blackman and Talley Beth Gale). Shakespeare has paired them off for our entertainment.
Connolly’s Princess is smart and never forgets to be a lady when getting her King, Ferdinand (Jonni Orsini). You know what’s going to happen, but the principals entertain us with conversation. Pascale Armand as Rosaline lucks out getting to play a part in a love-hate relationship with Kieran Campion. Again, you know they are going to get together, but the journey is worth watching.
The caricatures like Boyet, Armado the Spaniard, Holofernes a schoolteacher and with him, Sir Nathaniel are all naughty and over-the-top. Some of the lines make you tilt your head. Did he really say that? For secondary parts they are all memorable and almost steal the show. Kevin Cahoon as Boyet is dressed like Mozart, without the wig. He talks in his most effeminate voice with a little gravel like an old woman as he attends to the “Wenches.” As Cahoon plays matchmaker he is sure to do some hip thrusts at one of the Lords and throw a wink. Triney Sandoval as the Spanish braggart speaks with a Castilian lisp. His letter gets mixed up and read by the educated ladies, which doesn’t go over well, but then is given to Jaquenetta the diary maid (Makha Mthembu), the rightful owner. And the dairy maid is delighted by the not-so-poetic letter. It’s pure fun listening to Sandoval and Mthembu play with stereotyped accents of Spain and Jamaica. Holofernes the schoolteacher and Sir Nathaniel the curate resemble the Mad Hatter and Mouse in the animated movie Alice in Wonderland. I guess Holofernes was a reference to the mathematician Harriott in Shakespeare’s day. I wonder what the scientist did to make Shakespeare want to poke fun of the top mathematician in England. Perhaps, he was full of himself like Stephen Spinella portrays him. Spinella makes fun of others’ accents and talks about taking advantage of his female students while keeping a straight face. He strides downstage with a candelabra that has plastic forks spray painted orange for flames. “Look at the flames,” a gal in the audience says, laughing in her girlfriend’s ear. Patrick Kerr is the added sprinkles to Spinella’s donut. Such an odd and adorable duo.
You’ll have a hard time deciding who is your favorite character.
And, yes, Shakespeare would have been happy with The Old Globe’s Love’s Labor’s Lost.
Love’s Labor’s Lost by William Shakespeare directed by Kathleen Marshall runs August 14 – September 18, 2016 at the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre.
The Old Globe, 1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego, CA 92101. Box Office (619) 234-5623.