Love's Labours Lost
nytheatre.com review by Di Jayawickrema
July 9, 2010
The Drilling CompaNY takes an ambitious step opening its 2010 season of Shakespeare in the Park(ing) Lot with one of the Bard's early plays, Love's Labour's Lost. Pedantic and full of tortuous dialogue, Love's Labour's Lost is not one of Shakespeare's best-loved comedies...but The Drilling CompaNY, now in its seventh year of producing Shakespeare in the Park(ing) Lot, could never be accused of lacking in ambition.
"If anyone has a cell phone, keep it on—that will be the least of our distractions tonight," the company's barker cheerfully announces after thanking Con Edison for providing free lighting via the street lamps of the Municipal Parking Lot. He wasn't wrong; roaring traffic nearly drowned out the dialogue and at one point a bewildered-looking bystander wandered right across the stage. These interruptions and the parked cars, chain-link fence, and graffiti-adorned building in the background are part of the charm of this New York theatrical tradition. Rachel Schneider matches her set design to the spirit of theatre in a parking lot—there are piles of tires and apple crates, and ragged cloths draped over cardboard serve as combination dressing rooms and stage entrances/exits.
In this new production, Shakespeare's tale of the youthful King of Navarre and his three companions who forswear the company of women only to find their oaths immediately compromised by the arrival of a beautiful princess and her ladies gets a modern rock and roll makeover. The revamped characters find themselves in rival girl and boy bands at Burning Man competing for dominance through game show style challenges. Kathy Curtiss's production features mostly the original Shakespearean dialogue with tongue-in-cheek veers into topical language—"Remuneration is the Latin word for 'fitty'—fifty dollars." The entire cast is highly energetic, physical, and delivers strong comedic performances, but Amanda Dillard as Rosaline and especially Jordan Feltner as Berowne often steal the show. Lisa Renee Jordan's playful costuming perfectly complements the tone of the piece; King Ferdinand wears leather pants and crown-shaped bling around his neck while the Princess of France struts around in thigh-high boots and a plastic tiara.
Shakespeare's comedic conventions are on full display here; there are disguises (the men dress as KISS), love letters are delivered to the wrong parties, the characters engage in fierce battles of wits. However, the convoluted dialogue and more academic themes become hard to follow especially as the play exceeds its advertised two hour runtime by nearly 40 minutes. The subplot of the love triangle between swordsman Don Armado, disreputable Jacquenetta, and the fool, Costard, as well as the philosophical conversations between scholars Holofernes and Nathaniel, feel superfluous in an already overlong play.
Despite the fun, edgy work from the designers and director and the lively performances from a company you can't help rooting for, if you're not an avid Shakespeare fan, you may find this lengthy production pushes at the limits of your patience by the two-hour mark.