“Love’s Labour’s Lost,” an early comedy by Shakespeare now playing at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s outdoor theater, has a simple plot that points toward greater works like “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Essentially, Ferdinand, young King of Navarre, vows that he and his three pals will foreswear women and pleasure for three years, and devote themselves to study. Meanwhile, a French princess arrives with three ladies to negotiate a debt on behalf of her ailing father.
Normally, Ferdinand would welcome them, but now the visitors must camp outside his gate. Vow or no vow, the men are dying to meet them. So naturally they disguise themselves as Russians, dance to entertain the ladies, and promptly fall in love.
The French women, however, are smart and skeptical, and play a few tricks of their own.
With the exception of quick-witted Berowne, most of the characters are underdeveloped. The script, however, is acclaimed for its elaborate language and brilliant wordplay. Unfortunately, in this production directed by Amanda Dehnert, the words are lost under an onslaught of unnecessary shenanigans.
This misconceived interpretation makes me believe the director doesn’t trust the play to hold our attention. It would, if we didn’t have to slog through added distractions.
Do we need so many rock songs slowing down the action to three hours? Do we need the young characters decorating their white clothes with finger painting for no apparent reason?
And the set, filled with mylar balloons, junk and scaffolding. Is that supposed to be a teenager’s bedroom? Who knows?
What I do know is that in spite of a fine cast led by Stephen Michael Spencer as Berowne, Daniel Jose Molina as Ferdinand and Alejandra Escalante as the princess, this is not the best “Love’s Labour’s Lost” I’ve ever seen.