Friday, December 11, 2009

Love's Labour's Lost


By William Shakespeare. Directed by Dominic Dromgoole. Shakespeare's Globe Theatre at the Michael Schimmel Center. (CLOSED)

Critics are mixed on this, the first Globe import since Dominic Dromgoole took over the London theater from Mark Rylance: They agree that director Dromgoole has put the focus on the play's bawdy, headling farcical elements but don't universally feel that shows the play in its best light. Only the Times' Ben Brantley and the AP's Jennifer Farrar wholly embrace the show's manic, groundlings-geared sensibility as befitting the play's lustily youthful setting; the rest find the relentless high-jinks, though well-executed and often amusing, to be ultimately tiring or distracting. Critics are even mixed on which actors fare best, though Brantley makes a strong case for Michelle Terry's turn as the Princess of France.

The New York Times A
(Ben Brantley) Extravagantly funny...It is no insult to say that Dominic Dromgoole’s touring interpretation of Shakespeare’s comedy from the 1590s is sophomoric. On the contrary, Mr. Dromgoole, the artistic director of the London-based Globe, is to be commended for revealing that this word-infatuated frolic may well be the first and best example of a genre that would flourish in less sophisticated forms five centuries later: the college comedy...As the ensemble scampers merrily and distractedly in Elizabethan garb (occasionally venturing with charming disrespect into the audience), there’s a feeling of springtime headiness, of fresh sap rising...Mr. Dromgoole makes maximal use of the disparity between trained mind and animal instinct.

Associated Press A
(Jennifer Farrar) "Love's Labour's Lost" is one of Shakespeare's more complicated comedies, full of obscure literary references, wit and puns that could be confusing to a modern audience. Yet the lively, Elizabethan-style production currently at Pace University, who has partnered with Shakespeare's Globe Theatre of London, is so energetic and well-acted that its appeal transcends any possible issues of language. As directed by Dominic Dromgoole, the physical comedy in this lighthearted interpretation almost never stops...Combining witty banter with shameless mugging, comic antics and sprightly choreography, the ensemble has created a thoroughly joyous entertainment...Adorable stuffed deer puppets and charmingly period instruments, plied by an onstage troupe of live musicians, round out the feeling of being transported to the grounds of an Elizabethan castle.

Backstage B
(Leonard Jacobs) There is more farce and honest-to-God shtick than in a half-dozen Feydeau plays or the highest-octane Molière. Dromgoole, chiefly through Jonathan Fensom's design, transforms the stage of the Schimmel Center into something meant to approximate the wooden O that the Globe calls its London home. Instructing the actors to exhibit precision and alacrity, he also frees them to make mirth to excess. Allusions to sex are as rife and ribald visually as those found in the text...To the degree that "Love's Labour's Lost" is a purely rollicking, driving adventure, Dromgoole's foot remains hard on the pedal...Still, there comes a moment in this asthma-inducing production when one must ask if too much shtick is good for the play. It's audacious, yes, to overlay sight gags and physical comedy where the play's most poetic passages occur. But it comes at a price, constantly threatening to cheapen, if not overwhelm, Shakespeare's sweet sentiment. The audience is right to eat up all the high jinks, but they come too close to robbing us of the play's tender and rueful final message.

New York Post B-
(Frank Scheck) With its labyrinthine plotting and intellectual wordplay, "Love's Labour's Lost" is one of Shakespeare's less accessible comedies -- something London's Globe Theatre seems determined to change. Dominic Dromgoole's touring production accentuates the play's bawdy, rambunctious humor. There's so much physical shtick and in-your-face hijinks, the results resemble Shakespeare as filtered through Monty Python...There's no shortage of funny moments, and the ensemble delivers the archaic language with uncommon clarity. But the production stresses the humor to such a degree that it sacrifices emotion and characterizations.

Variety C+
(Marilyn Stasio) Dominic Dromgoole panders exclusively to modern-day groundlings. As an exhibition of low comedy, the show is notable for the cunning design and exhilarating execution of double entendres and vulgar sight gags. But it's thin gruel for more refined theatrical palates...Shakespeare conceived of his romantic comedy as a playful examination of the conundrum that faces all educated, well-born youth -- the delicious struggle between love and duty...But Dromgoole has so drastically restructured the romantic comedy that the royal players are robbed of their wit and reduced to the roles of rustics. And while the youthful performers gamely kick up their heels in stylized dances and athletic movement drills, all that kidding around eventually makes them look foolish.

Theatermania C
(Andy Propst) There's something charming about the freeness of this Shakespeare play, but in director Dominic Dromgoole's production, the quality is so over-emphasized that the piece becomes bewilderingly tedious. Indeed, audiences must endure too much physical comedy that inspires not guffaws, but incredulity...There are other pleasures to be found here, notably from set and costume designer Jonathn Fensom; his gorgeous scenic design mimics the configuration of the Elizabethan theaters and features handsomely painted drops that evoke the imagery of medieval tapestries. A host of fine secondary performances are also on view...Alas, these characters are too seldom at the fore of this labored production. C
(David DelGrosso) Dromgoole's production succeeds in involving the audience and getting a lot of laughs, but this is largely done despite Shakespeare's comedy rather than with it...Instead of rising to the challenge of the play, the solution seems to be to aim low and add shtick. A lot of shtick...An exception to this problem is Paul Ready's portrayal of the Don Adriano De Armado...Ready grounds Armado in sincerity, and as a result I found him to be one of the most consistent and compelling characters in the play, and hilarious without seeming to try as hard to be as some of the other performers. Also good is Michelle Terry as the Princess of France...The rest of the characters, despite what seems to be a very skilled and energetic ensemble of actors, get largely washed out in a production so overloaded with general wackiness. Particularly lost is any chemistry between the romantic couples.

The New York Times A 13; Associated Press A 13; Backstage B 10; New York Post B- 9; Variety C+ 8; Theatermania C 7; Nytheatre C 7; TOTAL: 67/7=9.57 (B)

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