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The king of Navarre and his three lords — from left, Jose Guzman, Jonathan Jacobs, JC Payne and Alexander Kafarakis — find that keeping their oath to study and avoid women is harder than they thought in Chesapeake Shakespeare Company's production of "Love's Labour's Lost."
The king of Navarre and his three lords — from left, Jose Guzman, Jonathan Jacobs, JC Payne and Alexander Kafarakis — find that keeping their oath to study and avoid women is harder than they thought in Chesapeake Shakespeare Company's production of "Love's Labour's Lost." (Courtesy photo / Brandon W. Vernon)

When the king of Navarre and three of his lords vow to devote themselves to three years of scholarship and prayer, it means they must place women on the list of things to avoid in Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost.”

Good luck with that vow, idealistic gentlemen.

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The premise is destined to provide a plethora of romantic comedy complications, and you’ll be eager to anticipate them in a Chesapeake Shakespeare Company production at the Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park. Considering this Ellicott City site’s past as a female boarding school, the king of Navarre, Ferdinand (Jonathan Jacobs), seems unlikely to fulfill his near-monastic plans.

The accompanying lords Berowne (Jose Guzman), Longaville (J.C. Payne) and Dumain (Alexander Kafarakis) likewise seem destined to fail. As energetic as they are dense, these guys ultimately can’t deny the human need to balance study with pleasure.

Shakespeare’s fleet and nimble comedy quickly forces the point when the Princess of France (Lauren Davis) providentially arrives on a diplomatic mission with her courtly ladies Rosaline (Elana Michelle), Maria (Micaela Mannix) and Katherine (Hilary Morrow).

Doing the math on this human equation, you immediately realize how efficiently the male residents and the female visitors will be partnered as they work their way through plot complications that will be neatly resolved in the Bard’s trademark fashion.

To pass the time, the citizens of Navarre perform a play to entertain the lords and ladies of Navarrein. From left, JC Payne, Micaela Mannix, Hillary Morrow, Alexander Kafarakis and Quincy Vicks.
To pass the time, the citizens of Navarre perform a play to entertain the lords and ladies of Navarrein. From left, JC Payne, Micaela Mannix, Hillary Morrow, Alexander Kafarakis and Quincy Vicks. (Courtesy photo / Brandon W. Vernon)

Actually, fashion is very much a consideration in the production overseen by director Erin Bone Steele. In terms of the overall acting style, the fashion here entails an initial measure of restraint among the aristocratic main characters. Jacobs and Davis, for instance, portray the royal leads as articulate and disciplined people who are fully capable of verbalizing the situation and therefore capable of charting how things are changing.

Correspondingly, the lords and ladies eventually must concede that fashionable courtly restraint must give way to more open expressions of interest in romantic pairings. This being a Shakespeare comedy, there will be disguised identities facilitated by actual masks to navigate before they’re able to work things out.

The secondary characters are the ones who are given first-rate opportunities to be foolish. Foremost is a knight with the delightfully pretentious name of Don Adriano de Armado, who mangles proper English usage and pronunciation with hilarious results. Michael Boynton’s scene-stealing performance is as lively as Armado’s sword-swinging hyperactivity.

The literal fashions in the show place the action in the 1920s. Costume designer Heather C. Jackson dresses the cast in light and colorful clothes that seem ideal for a summer garden party. It’s a festive setting for a lighthearted comedy, and that mood is reinforced by having cast members perform such period-appropriate songs as “In the Good Old Summertime,” “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” and “Falling in Love with Love.”

Chesapeake Shakespeare Company presents “Love's Labour’s Lost” through July 28 at the Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park, 3655 Church Road in Ellicott City. Performances are Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 6 p.m. Tickets are $36- $50; $29 for seniors 65 and over; $19 for ages 19-25; and free for ages 18 and under (two children free per paid adult, by reservation). Call 410-244-8570 or go to chesapeakeshakespeare.com.

Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s outdoor production of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” at the PFI Historic Park features live music and dance numbers.
Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s outdoor production of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” at the PFI Historic Park features live music and dance numbers. (Courtesy photo / Brandon W. Vernon)
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