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LOVE'S LABOR'S LOST
by William Shakespeare

Stolen Shakespeare Guild

Directors - Jason and Lauren Morgan
Stage Manager - Timothy Betts
Costume Designer - Lauren Morgan
Props Artisan - Nancy Waak
Lighting Design - Fort Worth Community Arts Center
Set Designer - Rachel Kenneth


CAST

Thomas Fletcher - King Ferdinand
Carter Frost - Berowne
Christopher Reaves - Longaville
Alex Krus - Dumaine
Lauren Morgan - Princess of France
Ashlie Kirkpatrick - Rosaline
Rene Sarradet Fuller - Maria
Chelsea Duncan - Katherine
Bryan Douglas - Boyet
G. Mike West - Monsier Marcade
Tyler Shults - Don Adriano de Armado
Charissa Lee - Moth
Art Peden - Holofernes
Eddie Zertuche - Sir Nathaniel
Delmar Dolbier - Dull
Jason Morgan - Costard
Briannon Scott - Jaquenetta






Reviewed Performance 2/11/2011

Reviewed by Clyde Berry, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Words, Words, Words are what come to mind when the subject of Shakespeare comes up. Many fear his work due to horrible teaching of his scripts as literature by well-meaning teachers who point at couplets and grin at the pun to students who care more about the action and characters. Shakespeare, at his best, uses words to capture, in a unique turn of phrase, the glory, pain, or love felt by his famous characters. Shakespearean productions, in the worst performances, leave in the long passages meant to establish scenes or other business that modern theater technology is able to show the audience instead of having to tell them. In the hands of amateurs, it could be a very rank evening. However, The Stolen Shakespeare Guild delivers a solid production of one of Shakespeare's more problematic and less popular comedies.

Love's Labour's Lost, is not one of Shakespeare's better known comedies - there's few quotes in pop culture, it is one of his wordier pieces with the least amount of action. There are few movie adaptations of it and even the Branagh version was a financial and critical flop. It does however, according to NPR, boast one of the longest words in the English language: honorificabilitundinitatibus. Still, the main plot is pretty thin and requires excellent acting to distract from its faults.

Basically, a King and his three buddies decide to swear off women, and instead are going to lock themselves away to fast and study. Of course, as soon as this happens, a princess and her three lady friends show up on business and the boys find themselves in a fix. How can they honor the oath they have sworn, and yet still court their ladies? In typical Shakespearian fashion there is a subplot, in this case several to further complicate the issue. A Spanish Duke is interested in the local floozy whose recent tryst earned her partner a punishment. There is also a pair of scholars who love Latin puns, and try to out-pomp each other.

Through the usual disguises, letters gone awry, screen scene, and play-within-a-play, everything gets pretty complicated before it gets better. Be warned - and a slight spoiler here ? the ending is not typical for a comedy but the getting there is still fun.

In this production, the ladies reign supreme and the four French ladies as a group have the best chemistry between them making the language flow quickly and clearly without overdoing the giggly girl bit. Lauren Morgan leads the group as the Princess, with a regal bearing, playful wit, and clarity of purpose.

Likewise, Rene Sarradet Fuller, Chelsea Duncan, and Ashlie Kirkpatrick are enthusiastic and easy to believe as a group of gal pals. Sadly, the script does not give each of them a great deal of time to develop more of a character, because these ladies would rise to the challenge.

Charissa Lee, in a pants role as Moth, is as flighty, energetic, and sprightly as the name suggests. Drawn to the fire of his Spanish Lord, Moth is the put-upon attendant. Lee has played these roles before, and shows a clear talent for delivering a punchline and having a solid physical character.

The gents are a bit less cohesive, but still have several standouts ? most notably Carter Frost as Berowne. Frost makes the language conversational and has the ability to physicalize his lines to add further clarity to those who get lost in the text. A perfect balance of the nobleman who gets carried away, Frost can play the seriousness of one beat, and turn instantly into the buffoonery required in the next.

Thomas Fletcher, the King, is unbalanced between a quiet soft-spoken regality, and a boisterous frat boy during shtick. Christopher Reaves and Alex Krus' characters are as equally underwritten as their lady counterparts but the guys don't quite carry them as solidly as the ladies.

As Boyet, Bryan Douglas is on par with the ladies he serves. Energetic, animated, and always reacting, Douglas does not waste a moment of stage time. Delmar H. Dolbier's Dull has few lines, but what he lacks in lines he makes up for in solid characterization. Dolbier is a smart performer who also does a lot with a little. In what could potentially be an overly heavy and weighty character, Art Peden delightfully finds the simple arrogant honesty of Holofernes and skillfully delivers the puns and quips without slowing down the action. It would be great to see him in the upcoming Henry V.

The Spanish Don is played by Tyler Shults with an emphasis on vocal characterization which, although interesting, was often inconsistent.
Shults is also physically diminutive in his actions as the Don, sacrificing his bombastic nature and neglecting much potential Shakespearean "Mechanical" comedy.

Jason Morgan, who played Costard as well as co-directed this production with Lauren Morgan, has created a well researched and enjoyable production. The actors clearly understand what they are saying, no easy feat in Shakespeare, and comfortably get the words out. Talky scenes establish character and plot, but don't wallow in jokes that aren't needed or won't land. In other words, they move things along as quickly as they can. Where there is shtick, it's quite good; there is simply potential for more, especially in the play-within-a-play scene and the secondary characters.

With a unit set and basic lighting, the Morgans move folks around well, and the platforms built by Keith Glenn, painted to be the men's love letters, are a nice touch. Lauren Morgan's costumes are well shaped and styled, though certain colors seem to be very popular in France and Navarre.

While this Shakespeare could be tedious for those who don't like to listen too attentively, this production of Love's Labour's Lost is a good one, with strong performances, a fast pace, and enough action to keep folks interested.




LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST by William Shakespeare
Stolen Shakespeare Guild
Through February 20, 2011

Show dates and times:
Friday, February 18th @ 8:00 pm, Saturday, February 19th @ 2:00pm and 8:00pm, and Sunday, February 20th @ 2:00 pm.

Performed at Fort Worth Community Arts Center, Sanders Theater, 1300 Gendy St. Fort Worth, TX 76107.

Tickets are $10 to $17. Individual tickets may be purchased at the box office one hour before show time, by calling Theatre Mania at 1-866-811-4111, or o