"Love's Labor's Lost" @ Chicago Shakespeare Theater

"Love's Labor's Lost" @ Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Theater Review by Mary Crylen, February 15th, 2017

Rating 3.5 Stars Out of 4

Need something to pick up those winter blues? This battle of sexes is filled with quick wit, raunchy innuendos, and a plethora of alliteration. Love’s Labor's Lost, directed by Marti Maraden, delves deep into a true struggle between mind and heart. King Navarre declares a three year oath against love and worldly pleasures in pursuit of knowledge, but this plan is soon thrown off course with a visit by four beautiful ladies from the French Court. A song, a trick, a play, a marriage – all archetypes of the typical Shakespearean comedy. The play at its core rises basic humanitarian themes with a focus on words. As one of the bard’s less popular works, this play tackles complex rhetoric and cleverly timed puns making it a true spectacle of enjoyment. 

Set in the 18th century, also known as the Age of Reason, be prepared to walk into a rocco painting and laugh at the plights of lovers. Walking into the theater is as if stepping into a woodland meadow. A foliage backdrop created in perfect essence of Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s work “The Swing”, most famous for its carefree attitude and alternative style of the rigid serious works of the Baroque era. The extremely creditable Kevin Depinet, scenic designer, knocks it out of the park with this simplistic, yet detailed set. A tree erupts from the curvature of the stage reaching its boughs to the ceiling with the perfect accompaniment of beautiful dappled lighting. Overall, the lighting design was a terrific example of the power of simple lighting techniques strung together to convey and compliment the piece on the whole.Strong pastoral imagery of an idyllic golden afternoon. The whimsical elements truly reflects the edge of the Romantic era and perfectly complements the struggle between desires of the flesh and a higher knowledge. Richard Jarvie, wig and make-up designer, crafts lovely visual elements for each character that the eye is not left wanting. The wigs and styling takes a playful take on the classic. Balance between extravagance and simplicity allows the audience to draw more conclusions on the stark contrasts this play possesses through its triad of character groups. 

The Princess (Jennie Greenberry, at right) and Rosaline (Laura Rook) gleefully read through a love letter mistakenly delivered into the wrong hands, as Katherine (Taylor Blim) and Maria (Jennifer Latimore) look on in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s productions of Love’s Labor's Lost, directed by Marti Maraden, February 7th – March 26, 2017. Photo by Liz Lauren.

As always, Chicago Shakespeare Theater delivers a high caliber of actors with side-splitting expressive characters. Sharp tongued banter flows forth from one scene to the next and you find yourself intoxicated by the words. A stunning delivery of foolery and flare by Alex Goodrich (Costard), who expresses a relatable gritty truth about love and that ignorance sometimes is indeed bliss. Aaron Lamm playing Moth, a scrappy young lad in service of an exuberant Spaniard, holds his own in such a hefty cast of remarkable actors. With such plays as A Christmas Carol (Goodman Theater 2016 and 2015) and To Kill a Mockingbird (Oak Park Festival Theater) under his belt, Lamm is an amazing talent to look out for on the Chicago stage. The characters truly bond with one another in a way that removes the barrier of just reciting 16th century tongue twisters. Even if you become lost among the verbal tennis match, the blocking is exquisitely executed with the curves of the scenery complimenting the dance of players on stage. Nate Burger (Berowne) treads the fence of jester and scholar – a relatable character balancing the struggle of logic versus pleasure. Burger’s expressive passion is evident and the connection with the audience seems to hold a building energy, each feeding off one another by the time it ends. Largely based on the element of promises reigns. Mindful knowledge and scholarship is challenged by desire and natural sense. Women are compared to watches and the cuckoo reigns over head. 

Love’s Labor's Lost is playing now through March 26th, 2017. Accessible performances available as well through CST’s Access Shakespeare programs. For tickets and information, please visit www.chicagoshakes.com/loveslabors or call 312-596-5600

Mary Crylen is a photographer and writer based in Chicago. She is an alum of Southern Illinois University of Carbondale with a B.A. in English and a B.A. in Photography. She possesses a sincere passion for the arts and believes zeal shows through work. Follow her on Twitter!