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By Bridgette M. Redman
If "Love's Labour's Lost" were released today as a movie, it would end with a "to be continued."
Pigeon Creek Theatre has undertaken this comedy of word play, disguises, dances and vows, telling the story with no satisfactory ending while creating an evening of pure Shakespeare.
The performance is one for those who love the Bard, his puns and his satire, for he pokes gentle fun at himself, at the conventions of the theater and all those who are quick to take vows and even quicker to find exceptions and loopholes to those vows.
"Love's Labour's Lost" follows the King of Navarre and his three companions who undertake to spur worldly comforts – including the presence of women – to devote their lives to study. The arrival of the princess of France and her three attendants throw a wrench in the works, as politically the men must meet with them and are hopeless when their hormones take over.
The Pigeon Creek ensemble makes the most of the banter and play between the characters, with all of the actors showing great comfort with the physicality, language and punning games. Kat Hermes nearly steals the show as the clownish Don Adriano de Armado, a Spanish lord who falls in love with a country wench, Jaquenetta (Brooke Heintz). Hermes doesn't stop at the Spanish accent to make the foreigner amusing. She carefully studies each word, finding a consistent scheme of pronunciations that makes the character more ludicrous while still ensuring that the audience can understand what it is being said. It is a challenging task – to take the audience along with a created spoken scheme all using the height of Shakespeare's poetic language. It's a challenge she masters with flair and skill.
Meanwhile Scott Lange as Biron, the most vocal of the king's companions, and Sarah Stark as Rosaline, the object of his affection and attendant to the princess, spar in a manner that calls to mind Benedick and Beatrice of "Much Ado About Nothing." They tease and taunt, though are much quicker to admit of their love for one another and their willingness to woo and be wooed. The relationship is brimming with a constant challenge, and they prowl the stage in a commanding fashion, constantly entertaining with their gentle battle.
Joseph Valente's King, Joel L. Schindlbeck's Longaville and Killian Thomas G.'s Dumaine each find distinct personalities as the young weak-willed students. They fill the stage with clever blocking in this ensemble-directed show, leaving the audience little doubt that each of them will be easily taken in by their first site of young beauty and confident women.
Kathleen Bode (Princess of Navarre), Stark, Brooke Heintz (Maria), Sarah Tyron (Katherine) make it easy to see why the young men fall so quickly for them. They have poise, intelligence and a sense of good cheer. They conspire with Janna Rosenkranz' Boyet (their chaperone) to pull off pranks and make their journey light with joy.
All of the ensemble's performances were solid and committed, though two other stand-outs came in the roles of Armado's assistant Moth, played by Chelsea Kaye, and Sarah Tyron's constable, Dull. Kaye was constantly light on her feet, prancing a contrast to Hermes' stolid and near-plodding clown. Her expressions matched the springiness of her motions, and the scenes between the two women were humorous and entertaining. Tyron made Dull a constable true to his name, though she eventually dropped the overbite that she had for him in the beginning of the show.
Hermes doubles as the costumer, and she fills the stage with color, especially for the Princess. She makes liberal use of wigs and costumes, especially for her character and the disguises of the king and his companions when they come to make sport of the ladies. One odd choice was to have all the male characters wearing blue jeans, but it was merely a minor distraction from an otherwise attractive show.
"Love's Labour's Lost" is not often performed, in part because it demands a lot of an audience that must commit to following the battle of wits in a story that remains unresolved when the play closes with a final dance. For those willing to make the effort, the Pigeon Creek ensemble will meet them more than half way with a production that is smart, physical and filled with the joy of all things Shakespeare.
SHOW DETAILS: Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company's "Love's Labour's Lost" continues at Dog Story Theatre, 7 Jefferson Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, Thursday-Sunday through July 1. Running time: 153 minutes. Tickets: $6-12. For information: www.dogstorytheater.com.
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