Would-be summer wonks had better skip the Loeb production of "Love's Labour's Lost." Otherwise, like Ferdinand of Navarre, they might realize the folly of spending one's life in bookish pursuits and come to bemoan those "barren tasks, too hard to keep--Not to see ladies, study, fast, not sleep."
But for others, whose mission at Harvard is less solemn, the Summer School Players offer an admirable preamble, light and witty, to a summer's labors. Director George Hamlin has managed to give life and boisterous unity to one of Shakespeare's lesser plays.
Lacking in plot, unevenly paced, and peopled with caricatures, "Love's Labour's Lost" is as much vaudeville as a comic valentine to the Renaissance theme of nature. And Hamlin is fortunate in four actors who ham it up delightfully.
* Louis Lopez-Cepero as Don Armado, the fantastical and grossly grandiloquent Spaniard, and and Bruce Kornbluth as Moth, his diminutive page deliver some of the play's funniest lines with well timed over and understatements.
* David H. Mills's Boyet is a properly urbane and satirical advisor to the Princess of France.
* Clayton Koelb as Holofernes, the scholastic, totters about the stage mumbling ridiculous Latin boobies in a suberb spoof on pedantry.
(However, the other, lower class "characters" are indeed of a lower class. Dull is overplayed by George Friend, as is Costard by Peter Weil whose lapses into a Southern drawl are also annoying.)
If the play is at its best with Lopez-Cepero, Kornbluth, Mills, and Koelb, it is still good when the men of Navarre are lured from their books to woo the ladies of France. Of the eight lovers, Shakespeare only gave Berowne, (Richard Monett), the Princess (Barbara Jean Friend), and the King (David Rittenhouse) substantial parts, and Monette and Miss Friend are for the most part equal to their tasks.
On opening night, Monette at first forced his rakishness and wit but after a fine soliloquy following the sonnet scene, his roguish skepticism seemed more natural. Miss Friend's controlled humor complemented her royal bearing. Rittenhouse looked nice.
Hamlin has put Horace Armistead's imaginative, multi-level sets to good use; several scenes, especially the breaking of the oaths and the pageant of the Nine Worthies, are really funny pieces of stage business. (It's good to hear laughter in the Loeb after a spring of tragedy.) One might object that the first act is a bit slow or that the costumes are Napoleonic not Elizabethan, but such things matter little. In the hands of the Loeb players, "Love's Labour's Lost" is a frothy and fun beginning to the summer season.