Shakespeare can be difficult to follow and somewhat inaccessible for many. Mainly for the language barrier; the difference between Middle English of the late 16th and early 17th centuries compared to what English has evolved to today. Many different words have fallen out of use, new one have come into use and the language is organized very differently. New World Shakespeare Company takes a modern approach to the material not by changing any of the plays, you will still get the prolific monologues in the original Middle English, however extra material has be added and presented in a different package in an attempt to make the material more digestible and understandable.
Shakespeare crafted some wonderful stories and plays which were far ahead of his time and are the main reasons they have endured for over 300 years and counting. Love’s Labour’s Lost is no exception this is the story of The King of Navarre, played by Monte Garcia and his three lords; Lord Barowne played by Zach Reynolds, Lord Longaville played by Thomas Fowler and Lord Dumain played by Eric Leckman.
The King and his Lords swear an oath of Scholarship which includes fasting, intense study and avoiding physical contact with women for three years. In the original play no sooner does this happen then Don Armado a Spaniard visiting the court, played by Jon Turner catches the local fool, Costard, played by Sean Keene consorting with Jaquenetta, played by Camilla Edsberg. This is where New World Shakespeare introduces a change to us. Here Jaquenetta serves as a game show/reality show host with Mercade played by Blayne Wiley. They introduce us to the King and his Lords as well as the Princess of France, played by Ellesse Hargreaves and her court; Lady Rosaline, played by Andrea Peterson, Lady Maria played by Gabrielle Neafsey and Lady Katherine played by Mindy Pike.
Here is where I am not sure what New World was going for; this seemed like a cross between a reality show and a game show. I did not get the game show element, are we competing to see which one of the Lords or the King will break their oath or which one of them will not find love, or not win their love. Probably not, because in the end they all meet the same fate. I hope I did not spoil anything there, after all the story has been around for 300 years. I would not have minded if they sold the reality show element more as they could have tailored that element of the show to give us a better sense of what the characters were thinking maybe a two or three minute video interview of a character or two in modern day English after every few scenes which would have helped the audience follow the storyline better.
I did not see how the extra material added enhanced the experience or understanding of the original content, this also came at the sacrifice of a few scenes which would have helped clear up some of the “mystery” characters which included Moth played by Christopher-Alan Pederson, Holofernes played by Mikayla Beyer, Sir Nathaniel played by Todd Woolston and Anthony Dull played by Dustin Kennedy. These scenes excluded maybe saved them 30 minutes of time at the expense of adding 60 minutes of additional content, taking this version of the play up to three hours in length and leaving me wondering who were these additional characters and what exactly are their roles?
The set design by Dustin Kennedy & Blayne Wiley which was modern themed still left me thinking that the King and his Lords decided to sequester themselves to study in their Dentist’s Office lobby. Also since there is the use of video being projected on the wall I would like to have seen the video not to be aimed though a potted plant. This scenery should have been moved out of the field of the projector many of us do not place items directly in front of our television screens for this reason.
The costume design by Anna Marie Coronado was of course in modern style, however this story is about a King, his court, a princess and her court. Even in modern day I would think they would be dressed in something better then what the average person wears to write a review at Starbucks on a Saturday afternoon. Actually some of the people around me are dressed in more formal attire then what was used in the production so I found this unrealistic. There were some scenes where I thought humor in the costumes was appropriate, especially where the King’s court attempts to win over the love of the Princesses’ court and the ladies decide to confuse the men on who they are to play a joke on them. However I would have liked to see more realistic modern costumes in some of the more serious scenes.
I was a little disappointed in the execution of the technical aspects of this production, evident early on during several of the videos the audio was cutting in and out and made if very difficult to follow them. That was disappointing because I found Bill Osborne’s & Blayne Wiley’s sound design to be done very well. The balance between the music, videos and microphones were excellent, however this issues that were experienced through out the evening were quite noticeable. So much so that Zach Reynolds who played Lord Berowne decided to speak in broken speech for a few seconds directly following one of the videos to diffuse the issue and make light of it. Reynolds improvised a few times like this. It was this as well as the emotion he brought to his character that made him a standout performer throughout the evening.
The lighting design by David Bruner was also done well. No actors were in shadows, all areas of action were visible and nothing was washed out. However in the final few scenes of the production there was a few times where the lighting board operator seemed to just hit the wrong button. Side stage lights were brought up at inappropriate times and some actors were lit up instead of others that the action was moving too. This was disappointing as they had been on point all night and to make several errors at the end of the production was very noticeable. However in case anyone missed it this was brought to the audience’s attention by one of the actors on the side stage looking stunned and motioning and audibly saying “no”, that detracted a bit from the scene and the performance.
I admire what New World Shakespeare Company is putting together, it seems like they are struggling a bit to figure out how much of Shakespeare’s world to make new and how much to leave old. However, all of the actors did a phenomenal job with the amount of content they were required to memorize and keep straight in their heads. Shakespeare is not easy and not many can put together a performance such as this. If you are lover of Shakespeare or if you think you might want to give a fresh new look on an old story a try; then you want to keep you eye on New World Shakespeare Company and this performance of Love’s Labour’s Lost is a great story in which to start or continue that adventure.
New World Shakespeare Company’s production of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” performs February 14 – 23 Friday’s, Saturday’s and Sunday’s 7:30 pm at Leonardo 209 East 500 South, Salt Lake City, in the third floor auditorium. Tickets are $15 at the door and online available at: newworldshakespearecompany.com, Running time: Approx. 3 hours, 10 minute intermission.