William Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost:” A comedy of errors

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Sheehan Hannan

The CWRU Department of Theatre presents “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” which features a large student cast and numerous gaffs.

Joseph Verbovszky, Staff Reporter

The new production opening this week at Eldred Theatre is an adaptation of a very old play. Eldred is presenting a true classic, “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” by William Shakespeare, the godfather of English theatre.

“Love’s Labour’s Lost” is one of Shakespeare’s earlier works. The comedy of errors tells the story of the king of Navarre and his friends, who swear to abandon all pursuits of women and pleasure for three years for the sake of study (something we can all understand, with deepest sympathy).

Naturally, just as they make this vow, the men are already aware of a compromising situation waiting just outside the courtyard: the princess of France has arrived with her ladies in-waiting to negotiate a treaty on behalf of her father. Despite having already fallen in love with the princess, the king nevertheless orders that she and her retinue pitch tents outside the court during their stay.

The main story is doused in comedic romance, and there are a number of comic subplots involving the kingdom’s lower classes that flesh out the play. The lower classes unwittingly and unwillingly have the king’s vow imposed upon them as well.

In this production, Eldred has abandoned the baroque setting of medieval France and its royal courts for the equally opulent art nouveau of the French 1920s. The play begins in the lovely French autumn, just passing out of the shadow of World War I. The rumblings of the next storm to wrack the continent are not yet audible. With the apparent peace reigning, life is a party.

The play takes place entirely outdoors on a gorgeous set designed by Cameron Caley-Michalak, who has experience working with the Cleveland Play House (CPH). Lighting plays an important role; Jill Davis, an associate professor at the CWRU Department of Theater who also has worked with the CPH, designed the lighting to create the effect of day and night cycles throughout the play.

Despite the change in setting, the classic Shakespeare – complete with rhyme, pun, and rhetoric – remains the same. Beth McGee, the director of “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” says, “When it comes to Shakespeare, it is best to let the beautiful language tell the story.”

And what beautiful language it is. Although “Love’s Labour’s Lost” pre-dates many of Shakespeare’s more developed comedies, it contains more rhymes, puns, and rhetorical devices than many of his later plays. It also includes some of his bawdiest humor. “Love’s Labour’s Lost” captures with cunning wisdom the dangers of putting academics before love.

Overall, the play promises to be an experience for both the eyes and the ears. The dynamic reinvention of set and lighting design in Eldred’s adaptation will provide a new take on this classic tale. “Love’s Labour’s Lost” will be the last Eldred production of the season; it opens April 13 at 8 p.m. and continues April 14, 19, 20, and 21 at 8 p.m., with Sunday matinees April 15 and 22 at 2:30 p.m. General admission is $10, with discounted prices of $7 for adults over 60 and CWRU personnel and $5 for students. For ticket reservations or information, call the Department of Theater box office.