“Love’s Labour’s Lost” loses romance, finds innuendo

The University’s 1920’s version of the Shakespearean comedy critiques the battle of the sexes.

The Princess of France and her lady-in-waiting devise a plot to fool the horny menfolk in the U's production of

The Princess of France and her lady-in-waiting devise a plot to fool the horny menfolk in the U’s production of “Love’s Labour’s Lost.” PHOTO COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF THEATRE ARTS & DANCE

âÄúLoveâÄôs LabourâÄôs LostâÄù WHERE: Rarig CenterâÄôs Whiting Proscenium Theater, 30 21st Ave. S., Mpls. WHEN: Feb. 26 âÄì March 7 TICKETS: $5 – $17 Director Kenneth Noel Mitchell knows how to put things in perspective. âÄúOften in life, we are careless and frivolous, until something like the earthquake in Haiti happens,âÄù said Mitchell, drawing a parallel between current events and the sobering second act of ShakespeareâÄôs âÄúLoveâÄôs LabourâÄôs Lost.âÄù The Shakespearian work, which you might recognize as a precursor to the 2003 Christmas movie âÄúLove Actually,âÄù revolves around a king and his three merry men that have taken an oath to devote all their time to studies of higher knowledge. In this vein, they swear off women and food. Apparently, food is no issue, but the pleasures of the flesh prove insatiable when the beautiful French princess and her three ladies-in-waiting show up to settle an outstanding financial deal. Mitchell adapted âÄúLoveâÄôs LabourâÄôs LostâÄù to be set in the roaring âÄô20s. To Mitchell, the time between WWI and WWII created an Eden-like lull in the litigious American society. Without the daily worries of food rationing and air raids, all characters could focus on their constant and continuous failings in loveâÄôs sorcery. The styling of the show knows no bounds, much like its defined Charleston-dancing , martini-littered era. Sequins galore, flapper hats and slim-fitting suits were expertly chosen for the performance, but it was difficult to see the adaptationâÄôs stretch beyond wardrobe choice. After all, some of the flappers spoke in British accents when they were theoretically from France. The set is presumably a garden terrace along the lines of GatsbyâÄôs i dealized piazza, but instead, it felt like a forest from âÄúA Midsummer NightâÄôs Dream, âÄú with draped vines and glittering Christmas lights framing the stage. The showâÄôs obvious standouts were Jaquenetta âÄî the slinking wench who seduces the court clown and the fantastical Spanish Don Adriano de Armado âÄîand Boyeta, a fur-clad Puck-like woman who goes undercover Victor/Victoria -style for the French princess. The adaptation and delivery of every line is flawless and adds a comical structure to the sometimes frenetic performance. The most effective portion of the show was the intensity of the execution and the adaptation of harmless Shakespearian verses into salacious innuendo. The show is often considered ShakespeareâÄôs most high-brow production, littered with allusions to then-current political folly and foreplay. This foreplay took a more sexual turn at the Rarig. âÄúWe try to make the jokes as clear and active as possible,âÄù said Mitchell. âÄú[The actors] are physically active when telling the archaic jokes.âÄù This means that the all of the Old English is coupled frequently with mimed groping and fingers implicated as penises snaking from trousers every few minutes or so. The show entertains frequently with these gestures as well as oddly placed non-sequiturs such as contrived Russian dancing or play-within-a-play. Even though thereâÄôs something to be said for opening up Shakespeare with a glass of wine, this production reminds us that it never comes to life like on stage.