Regional Reviews: St. Louis
Love's Labors Lost
Also see Richard's review of Be More Chill
But this month both of the intellectual extremes rush to embrace us along the golden mean in one of his early comedies: Love's Labors Lost is the showcase production at the 18th annual Shakespeare Festival St. Louis in Forest Park. And director (and Executive Producer) Tom Ridgely ennobles his fools with bright, funny glimpses of genius, while tearing down his dashing young noblemen in their comical anguish of love, in Shakespeare Glen. The festival is free to the public, if you don't mind sitting on the grass, and clocks in at around two and a half hours' running time, with one intermission. Often, a surprisingly chilly breeze drifts off the great reflecting pool nearby, which will be a relief when summer really sets in, between the Art Museum and the Children's Zoo. Several people brought dogs on the first Sunday night, which led to some unexpected barking contests. And I may have inhaled a very small bug. But Shakespeare's four pairs of lovers and another foursome (of unique goofballs) are all fresh and adorable in this new Festival staging. The live pre-show music includes the song "Meet Me In St. Louis, Louis" and the set (by Jason Simms) features a "cataract"-like stone staircase, like the Forest Park waterfall that once inspired Scott Joplin.
Sky Smith is elegantly romantic as the idealistic young king of Navarre, and Kea Trevett is the indisputably rationalist princess from France, who will make him work for her love. Bradley James Tejeda is outstanding as Biron, foremost among the king's eager-to-be-grown-up friends, and the actor makes great sense out of all Biron's conflicting moods, in his love for Rosaline (the very fine Laura Sohn).
But comedy is king in this show, and a quartet of clowns has most of the fun in Love's Labors Lost, from about 1595. Patrick Blindauer stumbles subtly into greatness as Costard, the world's worst letter-carrier; Philip Hernandez is a Pythonesque Spaniard as Armado; and Katy Keating has some surprisingly engaging wordplay with Carine Montbertrand as Holofernes. In the end, during a brief (and funny) pageant for the nobles (like "Pyramus and Thisby" in A Midsummer Night's Dream), it is the wonderful Ms. Montbertrand who gently rebukes us all, in the modern era, for our loss of kindness and humanity. As well she should.
I have an impulse to warn you about the ending, but you might enjoy it more if you don't know how it all wraps up. You could say that it's a much more modern play where (after much deliberation) a difficult solution is reached, that may provoke good discussions, especially if you're driving home afterward with a car-load of young adults or pre-teens. Every young person should see this play, which breaks the Shakespearean dictate that "all comedies must end in marriage." It's still a comedy, but one that reminds us that relationships require a lot of growing up, and understanding.
Love's Labor's Lost, through June 23, 2019, at Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, Shakespeare Glen, Forest Park, St. Louis MO. For more information visit www.sfstl.com.
Cast (in alphabetical order):
Additional Production Credits:
* Denotes Member, Actors Equity Association
** Denotes Member, USA Local 829