Another labour of love from Bag & Baggage
Local adaptation cuts to the chase
Bag & Baggages artistic director, Scott Palmer, has worked his magic scissors on yet another of Bill Shakespeares overblown fancies in this case, the much ignored Loves Labours Lost, a play so universally dismissed that its relatively brief seven-year life on the English stage was followed by a 235-year hiatus.
Palmers adaptation miraculously resuscitates one of the Bards least-loved comedies into a genuinely funny, audience-pleasing, mercifully brief (Palmer chopped the show, the cast and the number of convoluted plotlines in half) farcical synthesis of The Three Stooges and La Dolce Vita writ large on the concrete of Hillsboros Tom Hughes Civic Center Plaza.
In a nutshell, the story is this: Ferdinand, the newly minted King of Navarre, and his two lordly sidekicks vow to eschew all contact with women for three years in order to immerse themselves in cleansing philosophical growth. Ferdinand has conveniently forgotten that he is due a visit from the alluring and sophisticated Princess of France and her two BFFs, who spin into town on matching pink Vespas. Vows quickly crumble.
The arrival of the Spanish knight Armado (a stunningly Quixotic buffoon) provides another layer of complexity, particularly because he brings along his own versions of Sancho Panza in the form of the servant Moth and Dulcinea, the tempestuous and round-heeled Jaquenetta.
After lots of verbal bawdiness liberally accompanied by broad physical cues for those of us whose ears are ill-attuned to the rhythms of Shakespearean dialogue all is resolved. Three years of celibacy are reduced to the one full year the men will wait before wedding and bedding their loves. Alas, there is no wench for Armado as Jaquenetta ends up in the arms of Moth. End of story.
This senseless plot works well for two reasons: Scott Palmers fearless and irreverent staging and a ridiculously talented cast. Andrew Becks portrayal of Ferdinand, King of Navarre, is particularly funny. His mobile face moves fluidly from arrogance to confusion as he attempts to parry the verbal jabs of the much-cleverer noblewomen who invade his kingdom.
His romantic counterpart, Cassie Greer, who plays the Princess of France, is a smart, powerful and confident adversary who so easily outwits the king that one wonders what she sees in him. Greer is powerful, striking, and elegant a born leading lady.
From the first moment she stomps across the plaza, Rachel Rosenfeld, who plays Jaquenetta, grabs the audiences attention and sympathies, a feat she repeats every time she appears. Her Real Housewives of New Jersey accent and K-Mart wardrobe telegraph her social status, or lack thereof.
She is the perfect mate for Adam Syrons pathetically ill-used Moth, who absorbs his masters constant physical and verbal abuse with hilariously patient and long-suffering aplomb. The bizarre Spanish tango performed by Rosenfeld, Syron and Gary Strong, playing Armado, perfectly captures the productions outstanding absurdity.
Despite occasional environmental disruptions (blocked off streets do not silence airplanes) the actors need no amplification the entire cast projects the fast-paced Elizabethan dialogue with crisp clarity.
Costume designer Melissa Heller complements Palmers vision with her quirky and eclectic fashion choices the addition of elaborate bows to her hard-edged Italian designs lends a vaguely Renaissance flair.
Purists beware. As with many of Bag & Baggages Shakespearean adaptations, this show may well appeal most to those who love the Bard least. Ironically, the spirit of the Old Globe is probably expressed more faithfully in Palmers staging than in a more traditional, but stuffy, approach to the material.Add a comment