Act ll, scene 1, the Arrival of the Princess of France. Thomas Stothard (1755-1834). Royal Shakespeare Theatre Collection

Love’s Labour’s Lost

By William Shakespeare
Directed by Charlie Sexton

A review by Brian Kennedy

Entire contents are copyright © 2022 by Brian Kennedy. All rights reserved.

Desire, mixups, and comedy are plentiful in Commonwealth Theatre’s performance of Love’s Labour’s Lost, which opened the 2022 Young American Shakespeare Festival.

Love’s Labour’s Lost, which Charlie Sexton directed, is one of Shakespeare’s early and lesser-known comedies. The plot revolves around masculine desire. Ferdinand, King of Navarre (Lachlan Apple) and his three attendants Berowne (Bryce Abell), Dumaine (Trace Henderson) and Longaville (Nolan Brown), swear an oath of no women for the foreseeable future. That oath disappears when the Princess of France (Lauren Wood) arrives with her attendants Rosaline (Chloe Fitch), Maria (Sierra Conner) and Katherine (Kaileigh Chesman).

Each of the men falls in love with one of the women. From here, letters from the men are switched, the women purposely change identities, and confusion and comedy ensue. 

This Shakespearean play, like the other plays in the festival, was performed outside during a sunny and very warm evening in the parking lot behind Commonwealth Theatre Center’s building. 

The stage, meanwhile, was elevated and, other than the first scene, was mostly bare save for a bench in the back of stage right. The first scene only had that bench along with an older table, chair and a globe. 

Most performers’ costumes were Victorian-era suits and dresses that wouldn’t be out of place in a Sherlock Holmes mystery. 

The actors’ performances were pretty good, especially when it came to articulating the language. Shakespeare’s plays, whether comedic or tragic, are known for rhyme schemes and wordplay, and there was plenty of it. There’s even a 14-syllable word involved. The actors performed these rhymes, tongue-twisters, and Elizabethan language expertly with only a few noticeable line flubs that were quickly recovered. 

The performances were especially good considering the sound glitches, of which there were plenty. Multiple actors’ mics went out mid-sentence, had feedback or never worked. This was frustrating to endure. The sound team attempted to work out the issues during intermission, including calling a couple of actors back on stage to test their mics. The second half had fewer issues, but feedback and mics going out continued. 

Thankfully, most of the company didn’t really even need the mics thanks to clear projection of their voices.

While the performance, despite the technical issues, was good, it was not great. For the play to reach that level, the range of emotion needs to improve. Most of the play was in one mode, never satisfyingly dramatic or comedic, not too fast and not too slow. Maybe it’s due to this being opening night, or it could be the way Shakespearean plays are, not rising to a climax at the end like most modern plays do. Whatever the reason, more dramatics are needed from the company. 

The one time it hit that level came relatively late in the play when the King and his attendants performed a pretty neat dance for the ladies. Apple, Abell, Henderson, and Brown looked like they were enjoying this, and it brought smiles to the faces of audience members. 

If going to Love’s Labour’s Lost or others in the festival, bring a lawn chair and perhaps a fan. If needing a chair, however, Commonwealth Theatre will have extra folding chairs available.

Featuring Bryce Abell, Lachlan Apple, Nate Brantley, Nolan Brown, Kaileigh Chessman, Sierra Connor, Anya Cullen, Lucy Dingman-Root, Chloe Fitch, Bea Friesen, Trace Henderson, Riley O’Bryan, Sam Payne-Young, Roman Scott, Audrey Scott, Lauren Wood, & Wilson Young 

Love’s Labour’s Lost

May 12, 14, 16, 19 @ 7:00 pm
May 21 @ 2:00 pm

Part of the Young American Shakespeare Festival

Commonwealth Theatre Center
1123 Payne Street
Louisville, KY 40204

Brian Kennedy is a nearly life-long Louisville resident who has performed in plays since 2004. He also wrote extensively about the Louisville theatre scene for and from 2009-2015. Currently, he maintains the theatre blog LouBriantheater. When not involved in the theatre scene, he is an avid runner, participating in 5Ks throughout the state and in southern Indiana.