n Hillsboro director takes Shakespeare to 1960s Italy

by: COURTESY PHOTO - The women in this adaptation of Love Labours Lost are strong and powerful, yet still sexy.Have you had too much “Hamlet?” Are Romeo and Juliet droning on too long? Or perhaps you’ve grown mad with “Macbeth”? Worry not, Shakespeare fans.

Next week, Hillsboro’s Bag & Baggage Productions will present an adaptation of one of the Bard’s most enigmatic plays, “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” which will scoot its way from the mind of artistic director and Hillsboro native Scott Palmer onto the outdoor stage of the Tom Hughes Civic Center … on Vespas.

That’s right, the players in this modern adaptation of a 16th century comedy will ride in on scooters and be dressed to the nines in Italian garb.

“The visual style is very ‘La Dolce Vita,’” said Palmer, referring to the 1960 art film by Italian director Federico Fellini. “The high-end couture and the very modern civic center makes it the perfect setting for a hot sexy summer show in Italian style.”

Palmer has been working on this play since the Bag & Baggage annual donors’ gala last July, when donors selected the play to be this year’s summer production. “Last year we did ‘Julius Caesar,’ which was a dark, heavy political tragedy,” said Palmer. “I was relieved to get a light-hearted comedy, perfect for the summer.”

Palmer has directed the Bard’s plays at Bag & Baggage since he helped start the company in 2005. Most of his adaptations come with a modern twist. In 2010, Palmer set “Twelfth Night” in the Roaring ’20s of F. Scott Fitzgerald, and in 2009 he directed “Comedy of Errors” with characters from Looney Tunes.

Through his adaptations, Palmer hopes to make Shakespeare less of a stranger to the modern audience. “Some people say, ‘I don’t understand Shakespeare, it’s too difficult to follow,’” Palmer said. “I try to make the plays more accessible by modernizing them, and Shakespeare’s work is so powerful and so beautiful that it can sustain my adaptations.”

“Love’s Labour’s Lost” is no exception. The play has remained largely unknown due to its confusing plotline, dense language and obscure cultural references which even Shakespearian scholars have a hard time understanding. Palmer had to slim the play down to make it audience-friendly.

“The play we’re producing is half as long as the original, with half as many characters,” said Palmer. “The archaic inside jokes about the 15th-century king of Belgium were removed, leaving only the hilarious romantic comedy which any audience can understand.”by: COURTESY PHOTO - Arianne Jacques plays Roasline, one of the noblewomen.

Hilarious indeed. The play is about three noblemen who make a pact to give up women, only to have their vows disrupted by the arrival of three beautiful — and powerful — noblewomen [who ride in on Vespas]. Antics and hijinks ensue as the noblemen give chase and trip over each other to court the women.

“The show is about strong, very smart female characters who outwit the boys,” said Palmer. “The girls are witty, independent and professional, and they’re still sexy.”

“All of the girls are smart, it’s one of the highlights of the show,” said Arianne Jacques, who plays Rosaline, one of the noblewomen. “Berowne is the wittiest of the men, and he recognizes that Rosaline is equal to him in terms of intelligence, playfulness and beauty. He falls head-over-heels right after he swore he never would.”

While Jacques has entered different stages via bike and tandem bike before, next week will be her first time riding in on a Vespa. But that isn’t the only thing to keep an eye out for. “The group of actors we have is so talented that at any moment you look on stage there’ll be someone doing something interesting,” Jacques said. “That’s why a lot of people who see our shows want to come back to see them again.”

Gary Strong plays Armado, an egocentric Spanish knight. “He’s pretty full of himself and he likes to be cheeky with the audience,” said Strong. “And at the end he gets to do a Spanish dance with a princess. It’ll be a lot of fun to watch.”

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