A Guide to Modern Playwrights, Plays, and Productions
Love's Labours Lost

A delightful “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” set in the Romantic era, among the great trees and shrubbery of Regent’s Park, proved that this early work, dismissed by many scholars, has more to it than meets the eye on a first (or subsequent) reading.  Rachel. Kavanaugh rightly sees that the studied poetry is not attributable to a beginning playwright, but to his depiction of young people moving from affectation to real affection by the end.  Even this early, Shakespeare’s women are in charge, as they are in later comedies.  The King of Navarre and his aristocratic cohorts are idle young men indulging in the pose of scholars. When smitten at the first sight of the Princess and her female attendants,  they abandon the pose and express themselves in overblown, exaggerated declarations of love.  But they soon learn a lesson when the women, in masks, reveal how foolish the men look, having sworn eternal devotion – to the wrong woman.  

Setting the play in the Romantic era of Byron, Keats, and Shelley (remember  his “I die, I faint, I fail” ?) enhances the extreme behavior of the men, while the women look like Elizabeth Bennett, and display of her good sense.  Adrian Schiller is Berowne, who sees through the posturing of his peers, but goes along anyway when they take their monastic vows and abjure the company of women (briefly).  His counterpart  is  Rebecca Johnson as Rosaline, who not only teaches him how absurd his exaggerated declarations are, but who, with the other women, makes him wait a year and a day before she and the others will commit.  In the comic sub-plot, Christopher Godwin is the absurd Don Armado and John Conroy the egocentric schoolmaster Holofernes

Ms. Kavanaugh rightly recognizes the importance of the black-clad messenger who arrives at the end to announce to the Princess that her father has died.  Mortality had been mentioned at the play’s opening, as Navarre declared they could defeat Time by withdrawal from the world.  Now they realize the world has caught up with them, that reality is here and now, as the two wonderful lyrics at the end (beautifully delivered) make clear.