Love’s Labour’s Lost

Lotsa Laughs in Love’s Labour’s Lost

The Shakespearean comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost opened late in the season at Stratford, to gales of laughter on the Festival Stage.  In this play, Shakespeare had great fun with puns and wordplay, and the cast makes it even funnier.

Four male students believe that their education is all-important and they have agreed that they will avoid food, sleep and women to concentrate on their studies.  One of them, Berowne, attempts to point out that fasting, staying up all night studying and giving up the ladies may not be as easy as it sounds. But he is persuaded to join the other three and making the oath. Loves Labours Lost 2

Then four young women come to visit and their decisions are put to the test.  Each young man is attracted to a different lady and tries to hide his infatuation from his fellow students.  Of course, there are letters given to the wrong person, masquerades causing mistaken identities and a couple of clown-like characters coming and going, adding to the fun.

Mike Shara as Berowne has perfect comedic timing and gets the audience laughing right off the top with his late arrival.  Juan Chioran is hilarious as Don Adriano de Armado with his Kramer-like hair.  Special mention goes to his page, Gabriel Long as Moth.  Long is a very talented child who handles the role well, showing Moth’s ability to one-up his older side-kick.  Tom Rooney as Holofernes, the school master, creates humour in his frustration.  Holofernes is confounded by Don Adriano de Armado’s absurdity.  Brad Rudy lives up to his character’s name, Dull, speaking in monotones and adding to the hilarity.

I enjoyed the comedic talents of Stratford favourites Shara, Chioran, and Rooney. At the end of Act I, I made a note about liking the funny faces they create and the humourous looks they give the other characters.  Then I headed to the lobby, where I was surprised to overhear an audience member say she hated it when Shakespearean actors were just “pulling faces”.  I wanted to say “It IS a comedy,” but since I was eavesdropping, I held my tongue.

Nevertheless, that comment gave me pause:  Is Shakespearean comedy any different from, say, Norm Foster’s?  Both are prolific playwrights, and both can be pretty silly, where “pulling faces” is absolutely appropriate.  Without the comedic faces of the cast members, many of the funny lines and silly word-play would have slipped by unnoticed.

The whole question of what is funny in a Shakespearean comedy got me thinking:  When there is a funny scene in a comedy on the Festival stage, some audience members laugh loud and long.  Why such extended and pronounced laughter?  I’ve narrowed it down to three reasons:

  1. They hear other people laughing quietly at some pun that they didn’t quite “get”, so they compensate by laughing loudly to pretend that they understood the joke.
  2. They “get” the joke but they want to make sure other audience members know that they got it, so again, they overcompensate.  These are the pretentious laughers, out to prove to one and all that they know their Shakespeare.
  3. They are truly surprised by a funny joke.  Often I find the jokes fairly predictable, or I actually remember them from my days way back in Shakespeare 101.  So I don’t laugh out loud often.  But occasionally there is a joke that truly comes out of the blue and makes you chuckle.

In Love’s Labour’s Lost, there is more laughter directed at the comedic acting talents of this fine cast, than Shakespeare’s writing.  Credit goes to director John Caird for finding the humour in the script, making the puns and wordplay understandable within the confines of the sometimes unfamiliar Elizabethan language, and then casting actors who have the comedic timing to make it work.  And yes, some of those actors can make funny faces and they made Love’s Labour’s Lost laugh-out-loud funny!

Love’s Labour’s Lost continues in repertoire until October 9 at the Festival Theatre, Stratford.  Tickets are available at the Stratford Festival at 1-800-567-1600, or check www.stratfordfestival.ca

Photo: Andrew Robinson as Longaville, Mike Shara as Berowne, Sanjay Talwar as King Ferdinand of Navarre and Thomas Olajide as Dumaine in Love’s Labour’s Lost. Photo by David Hou.

Love’s Labour’s Lost
By William Shakespeare
Directed by John Caird
Performed by Mike Shara, Sanjay Talwar, Andrew Robinson, Thomas Olajide, Juan Chioran, Gabriel Long, Tom Rooney, Brian Tree, Brad Rudy, Josue Laboucane, Ruby Joy, Sarah Afful, Ijeoma Emesowum, Tiffany Claire Martin, John Kirkpatrick et al
Produced by Stratford Festival
Festival Theatre, Stratford
August 14 to October 9, 2015
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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