A column occupies a focal point of the stage with a raised circle around it – both painted with a stone pattern, together they look like a fountain. The floor is painted to look like grass and on either side there sit boulders and assorted outdoor props, but the garden only truly livens when the cast slips on stage.
Alternately excitable and solemn, Ryerson Theatre School’s second-year actors continuously bob and weave about each other in their rendition of Love’s Labour’s Lost. Shakespeare’s tribute to wordplay and the comedies of courtship finds an effective depiction in the way the cast twirls ever around and about the fountain, their voices switching volumes all the time to convey the humours of the bard’s couplets.
Mimicking the way Shakespeare’s verses constantly poke fun at each other, the cast performs with an admirable energy, playing off one another’s enthusiasm for mounting the fountain or exuberant gestures. To this end, it is perhaps distracting to have a column erected so prominently on stage, as many times it obstructs the characters from view, but the whimsical, unexpected column does also reflect many of the similarly lackadaisical characters. Special attention must be paid to the intricacy of the painted set, but the standouts of the performance are definitely the fervent tomfoolery of country bumpkin Costard and the theatrical antics of the Spaniard, Don Armado.
Showing at the Abrams Studio on the second floor of the theatre school, the black box setting works to the advantage of the play, bringing intimacy to one of the more fast-paced Shakespearean works. The costuming is similarly commendable; lords and ladies within the play wear rich hues and heavy sashes of fabric while the ridiculous Costard wears suspenders that lift his pants at least two inches above his shoes. However, in contrast to the other characters who wear riding boots or footwear that at least looks period-appropriate, Moth curiously wears Converse sneakers. Her shoes don’t detract from her serviceable singing and sassy performance, but Moth’s sneakers are distracting the instant the instant they appear on stage, a question never answered.
It is also confusing to have the characters change faces – after the intermission, some characters are played by different actors – but this proves understandable, given that every second-year in the acting program is supposed to be in the play and there aren’t may characters. Surprisingly, the changes in actors complement the winding nature of the Shakespearean verse, combining double entendres with a changing visual landscape, allowing for more interpretations of the different comic characters.
While Love’s Labour’s Lost is not as sober or as expansive a performance as others on the theatre school’s roster, its energy and spirited performances make the performance a pleasurable if not life-changing one. Commendable in its simplicity, the bard’s timeless verse finds a comfortable balance with the fresh faces of the second-year actors, and the laughs are considerable as the cast bandies about.