Love’s Labor’s Lost Topic: My paper report came a bit late but I was extremely exited to go. I got to watch Love’s Labor’s Lost preformed by the drama department in Juilliard School in Manhattan. I went alone and got through on a waiting list. I never read the play and had no idea what to expect. It turns out that a play is much easier to understand if you are watching people act it out on stage than if you are reading it from a script. And that play was meant to be watched. It was full of obscure jokes, and strange language which is relevant to the times when it was written but does not seem to make sense to the modern reader.
The actor’s body language, the expression on their faces and the general movement on stage tells the story almost independently of the written play. In other word’s how the actors say their lines matter as much as what they are saying. I understood why a play is supposed to be seen on stage rather than read in a classroom. The first thing to note about the production was that it was moved out of its time frame. The original play takes place somewhere in Shakespearean times in Europe.
This version puts the actors in modern clothing. The are portrayed as school children at play more than adults. The whole play tied into the theme of Cupid and the futility of attempting to resist love. Everything is about movement and it seems almost as a ballet or an elaborate dance production. The opening act starts with four young men (Navarre, Berowne, Longaville, and Dumain) making an absurd pact to dedicate 3 years to studying and abstain from women’s company and all other earthly delights.
On stage these men seem more like children. They are wearing school boy’s clothing and brandish wooden swords to make a pact. In the middle of the stage in a little school house with a classroom inside. The foursome is carrying book bags and speak in exaggerated tones. The colors are very vibrant and lively, giving the stage more movement and a feeling of light spirit.
Once the four have made their vows, Cupid will have his revenge. He finds his servant in the form of Costard the clown who in the production appears as a spanish ghetto joker in baggy jeans and a lot of very colorful shirts. The play is full of sexual innuendoes, heavy flirting and even a few rap numbers. I have never hears Shakespeare being raped before but it seemed to have a good beat to it. In the second movement we are introduced to the four ladies of the play: Rosaline, Maria, Katharine, and the Princess of France).
They are dressed as teenage girls with a risky fashion sense. Their characters are very distinct with one representing a nerd, one a sports jock one a flirt and the Princess a strong independent woman. The ladies are ready for a warm reception but Navarre, being true to his pact, refuses to let them in. Thus they are ready to aid Cupid in his revenge against the arrogant men who thought to ignore his arrows. Here each actor seems a clown with a lot of overplaying.
Each motion is bright and obvious, giving the viewer as much help as possible with the understanding of the play. The music is live and very sad contrasting what happens on stage. It prepares the audience for the inevitable tragic ending of the play and tones down the flashy acting. Soon all the boys break their oath and fall in love with the young women and the clever and sharp flirting begins. What the play lacks in clarity of words it makes up in the expression on the actor’s faces. Boyet is interestingly enough portrayed as a wild bisexual, Armado is showing homosexual tendencies as well.
That makes the play more fun for the modern viewer and brings the jokes down to the level where they can be appreciated more by the audience. The actors were all young students of the school but their skills were not equal. Costard took the audience by storm by being what he was supposed to be – a clown. I forgave the rude gestures, the wild movement on stage and the strange rap number because it was in the character. The performer was not inhibited and felt at home doing anything on the stage. Surprisingly the character of King Navarre seemed bleak and flat, getting lost in others. I am not sure what is written for Navarre in the play but it seems the actor lacked passion and failed to convince me in the love scenes.
The only good part was the renewal of the oath scene where his dialogue was light and clever. Outstanding was Berowne’s performance, the actor went all out and was almost too real to watch. He was funny when he had to be, the monologues came out clear and easy, and the more serious lines were said with passion but not overplayed. He made the audience share his point of view, he carried the mood through and you can see how hard he was working by the sweat on his face. The female characters were less notable and largely overplayed.
The seem to have been reduced to the cliche of the nerd, the jock, the flirt, and the Princess. The were useful in carrying through the plot but were not a pleasure to watch. Only the hunting scene raised my interest. I am very glad that I had the opportunity to attend this play and see it performed live right before my eyes. I never knew how exiting and entertaining it can be.
Actors create a connection with the viewer, and their performance is effected by the mood and the reception of the audience. I was sitting in the first row and felt almost like the entire play was being acted out for me alone. And I am sure that everyone around me had the same feeling. The alteration to the settings, the costumes, the songs, and the occasional phrase that was added by the actors themselves (like Oh, baby) was justified by the overwhelming response of the audience. If you ignore the strange jokes and obscure lines and see this play as a lightheaded comedy it is a pleasure to watch.