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Paulanne Simmons

"Love's Labour's Lost" Is a Labor of Love

"Love's Labour's Lost"
Directed by Dominic Dromgoole
Michael Schimmel Center at Pace University
Opened Dec. 8, 2009 Closes Dec. 21, 2009 8 p.m.
Tues. thru Sat. 8 p.m., Sat. 2 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m. & 7 p.m.
Tickets: $25-$75 (212) 868-4444 or www.smarttix.com
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Dec. 12, 2009

London's Globe Theatre is back in New York City for the first time in four years with "Love's Labour's Lost" at the Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts at Pace University, where the show completes a two-month national tour.

The play is directed by Dominic Dromgoole, who succeeded Mark Rylance in 2005 as the company's artistic director. It features a cast of Shakespearean veterans who effortlessly handle the play's bawdy jokes and complicated wordplay.

Philip Cumbus is Ferdinand, King of Navarre, who convinces his three friends, Berowne (Trystan Gravelle), Longeville (William Mannering) and Dumaine (Jack Farthing), to foreswear women for an entire year so they can devote themselves to study. The plan is that the local gallant, the ridiculous Spaniard Don Adriano De Armado (the wonderful Paul Ready) and a country rustic named Costard (Fergal McElherron) , will entertain the men when they are not studying.

Unfortunately, both Armado and Costard have their own amorous pursuits. What's worse, no sooner have the king's reluctant friends taken their vows than they remember that the Princess of France (Michelle Terry) and her three ladies, Rosaline (Thomasin Rand), Maria (Jade Anouka) and Katherine (Sian Robins-Grace) are scheduled to visit Navarre's court as ambassadors from their own country.

Vows are surreptitiously broken. Love letters reach the wrong people. Identities are mistaken. And the usual Shakespearean havoc ensues. Youth is the time for love, Shakespeare seems to be saying, and it should not be wasted on philosophy and academics.

"Love's Labour's Lost" is not one of Shakespeare's most popular plays. It is filled with sophisticated allusions and intellectual references culminating in the play-within-a-play, The Pageant of the Nine Worthies. Even if the groundlings would have understood all this academic humor, much of it is inaccessible to a modern audience.

Dromgoole, however, has leaped over these hurdles by re-creating the Elizabethan world in a production that is pleasing to both the eye and ear. Set designer Jonathan Fensom has created an elegant royal court that is a fitting venue for Claire van Kampen's original music performed by Arngeir Hauksson and Benjamin Narvey on Baroque guitar, theorbo and percussion.

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre was founded by the American actor and director Sam Wanamaker, who in 1997 succeeded in building a replica of the Glove near its original site in London. Since that time the theater company has striven to present Shakespeare intelligently, energetically and as close to the original style as possible four hundred years later.

Many scholars believe "Love's Labour's Lost" was originally written for the students who frequented the Inns of Court and might have welcomed the play's message. How fitting it is that the comedy should now be performed at Pace University, where students are still faced with the choice of following their heart or hitting the books.

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