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A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
Love's Labour's Lost

"Our wooing doth not end like an old play: Jack hath not Jill."— Berowne
Love's Labour's Lost
The Cast
(Photo credit: Kevin Sprague)
Honorificabilitudinitatibus is a real word used by such literary talents as Shakespeare and James Joyce. If you want to hear it spoken trippingly off the tongue, then Michael F. Toomey is the man you seek. As the idiot clown Costard in Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost, he does so with great aplomb as if it were the first word he ever uttered. And since this is a play about words, using approximately twenty two thousand, nine hundred and ninety four words, then wordsmiths will be drawn to this show as moths to a flame.

Speaking of Moth, he is another of the comic characters in this production running until September first at the Tina Packer Playhouse at Shakespeare & Co. And speaking of play, that is exactly what happens when every word or line delivered gives rise to another play on words, puns, Latin phrases, and obscure literary allusions, which makes this more of a pedantic delight disguised as romantic comedy.

The plot is a light, frothy improbable romance driven by linguistic acrobatics. The King of Navarre (Jason Asprey) of Northern Spain, and his noble friends, Berowne (Mark Bedard,) Dumaine (David Joseph,) and Longaville (AndyTalem) have taken a youthful oath to forego many earthly pleasures for three years in the pursuit of serious study. Of course, the major taboo is the company of women. Alas! The young princess from France (Brooke Parks) and her three noble and beautiful ladies (Kate Abbruzzese, Kelly Galvin and Nafeesa Monroe) have just stepped off the boat and expect to be welcomed in style."

The king and his courtiers fall in love at first sight, but the king insists they must not break their vow. And so the ladies, to their shock, are dispatched to a field camp outside the court where they plot a way to resolve this ridiculous situation abetted by their trusty aide Boyet, (Charles Sedgewick Hall).

The audience of Shakespeare's and our own time know it is a waiting game until the men are overcome by love and sexual attraction. The predictable results of this ambitious though futile attempt at asceticism reveal the callowness of these young men who find it most difficult to deny the instant attraction that routs them from their oaths.

Director, Lisa Wolpe, has staged this production in the post-World War Two era replete with radio announcements, music and costumes to indicate the reimagining of society's attitudes of that time period. It is a pastiche of realistic style, with generous detours into slapstick humor and vaudeville shtick supplied by the sub-plots of the romance between the ridiculous braggart, purple prose writer and pseudo poet, Don Armado (Edgar Landa) and his love interest, the maid Jaquenetta (Alexandra Lincoln) and his rival Costard (Michael F. Toomey).

Stir into the fray Armando's servant Moth (Eric Sirakian,) The wonderful Ryan Winkles as Dull, a policeman, and enough tomfoolery involving mixed-up letters, duels, pageants, masks and identity confusion that, though an early play, we see elements which will becomes the staple of Shakespeare's recognizable conceits. All of the action engenders a quasi-philosophical response by the so called Latin scholars, Sir Nathanial (Josh Aaron McCabe) and Holofernes (Paula Langton) whose hash of Latin phrases and pompous pronouncements make Hamlet's Polonius seem restrained.

It is the two lovers, Berowne (Mark Bedard) and Rosaline (Nafeesa Monroe), whose intelligence, wit and sex appeal, as both characters and actors mine the heart of the play's theme. Does language help or hinder the course of true love? For while all of this literary largess is spouting forth, it is also satirized and derided, leading to more hilarious scenes as when the four suitors discover one another secretly penning florid amorous embellishments while writingto their female counterparts.

The ending of the play is quite modern in overtone and the shrewdness and skepticism of the female characters appeal to modem sensibilities. Thought to be written about the same time as Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream, it is seldom performed due to its focus on linguistic high jinks, and over two hundred and forty puns and “in-jokes.” Wolpe has pared it all down to a recognizable structure of two plus hours.

Shakespeare and Co. excels at making what would be otherwise incomprehensible, very accessible to an audience of 2013. The universal themes are made apparent and laughter at familiar human foibles keeps this production fresh. This dynamic cast, garbed in theme appropriate and luscious costumes by Govane Lohbauer, on a versatile set, by Junghyun Gerogia Lee and seductively lit by Matthew Adelson brings to life this rarely enjoyed, early Shakespearean work.

One final note- Honorificabilitudinitatibus means “the state of being able to achieve honor” To hear it used in context is worth a visit to Shakespeare and Co.'s Love's Labour's Lost.

Love's Labour's Lost
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Lisa Wolpe
Cast: Kate Abbruzzese, Jason Asprey, Mark Bedard, Kelly Galvin, Charls Sedgwick Hall, David Joseph, Edgar Landa, Paula Langton, Alexandra Lincoln, Josh Aaron McCabe, Nafeesa Monroe, Brooke Parks, Erik Sirakian, Andy Talen, Michael F. Toomey, Ryan Winkles
Set Design: Junghyun Georgia Lee
Lighting Design: Matthew Adelson
Costume Design: Govane Lohbauer
Sound Design /composer/music director: Alexander Sovronsky
Movement/dance choreographer: Susan Dibble
Fight choreographer: Edgar Landa
Stage Manager: Diane Healy
Run Time: two and a half hours with one intermission
Shakespeare & Co.; Tina Packer Playhouse, 70 Kemble St. Lenox, MA
Previews 6/22/13-6/27/13; opening 6/28/13; closing 9/1/13
Performances: various dates and times
Tickets: $15.00-$90.00
Reviewed by Gloria Miller at June 29th opening performance
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