‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ lighthearted, visually appealing

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MONMOUTH — It’s safe to say Shakespeare never envisioned The Beatles or a group of go-go girls in productions of “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” but that’s just what Theater at Monmouth presents in a rip-roaring comedy at Cumston Hall.

Although this play, one of the bard’s early and lesser-known works, could present challenges for an audience because of its extremely long-winded exchanges of dialogue, director Dawn McAndrews gives the audience a delightfully lighthearted and easy-to-follow production.

The setting’s bold British design transports the action to the 1960s with all of its iconic fashion and ’60s style.

The Fab Four of this play are Rob Glauz as King Ferdinand, Jake Loewenthal as Longaville, Tim Kopacz as Dumaine, and Chris White as Berowne. All are in their first seasons with the theater. White in particular displays some fine comedic talent.

Erica Murphy, in her third season at the theater, gives an outstanding portrayal of the Princess of France. She’s pretty, perky, quick-witted and clever. Her role, along with excellent support of her three compatriots, puts the ensuing male-female encounters squarely in the sexual revolution of the 1960s, and the men are clearly outmatched.

The ladies-in-waiting of the French court are well-played by Isabella Etro, Kelsey Burke and Blythe Coons, all in their first seasons at the theater.

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James Hoban, a six-season veteran of the Monmouth theater, plays Boyet, attendant to the ladies from France.

Much of this show’s appeal belongs to the excellent costumes of the 1960s by Elizabeth Rocha, who is in her fourth season with the theater. The suits of both men and women are stylish, and not tie-dye outfits of that period.

Lucas Calzada, a third-season performer, is a whirlwind of humor in the role of Costard, a country bumpkin. His risqué antics with sword and other implements lend sexual connotation to every gesture and remark he makes.

Mark S. Cartier, who has had 20 seasons at Monmouth, and Janis Stevens, who has had 15, appear in the roles of Sir Nathaniel, a parish priest, and Holofernes, a teacher.

Bill Van Horn, a 14-season Monmouth thespian, plays Don Armado, a colorful Spaniard, and Michael Pullen plays his page. This comedic group is involved in a play-within-the-play.

“Love’s Labour’s Lost,” in keeping with the updated setting, has some occasional musical interludes, with guitar accompaniments by several actors.

It’s a play of witty banter and little plot. The King of Navarre and his three companions swear an oath to study together and to renounce women for three years. Their honor is immediately tested by the arrival of the Princess of France and her three lovely companions.

It’s love at first sight for all. In typical Shakespearean fashion, it’s filled with misdelivered letters, outrageous disguises and soulful soliloquies overheard.

While scholars view this play as linguistically dense and extremely demanding of contemporary theatergoers, this production is totally entertaining, whether audiences attempt to follow the dialogue or simply go with the flow.

Presentations of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” are at 7:30 p.m. July 20, 24 (with post-show discussion); 1 p.m. July 31 and Aug. 4;  and 7:30 p.m. Aug. 12, 17 and 20.

For tickets, contact the box office at 207-933-9999 or visit www.theateratmonmouth.org.

A children’s production of “Puss in Boots” is presented on Saturdays in July and other dates in August. Other shows will be Shakespeare’s “Henry V,” Beaumarchais’ “The Barber of Seville,” and Corneille’s “The Illusion.” The traditional mid-September comedy is “Boeing, Boeing.”

Cumston Hall is at 796 Main St. The 100-year-old landmark is noted for its beautifully restored small opera house in which shows are presented. 

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