This delightful Invictus Theatre experience proves once again that little has changed since Shakespeare penned this early comedy about the powerful drive of the passions of youth.
The young Ferdinand King of Navarre (Chad Bay) challenges his three besties Berowne (Charles Askenaizer), Longaville (Taylor Glowac) and Dumain (Sam Cheeseman) to forsake romance and other distractions of the flesh such as eating for the purpose of devoting themselves fully to their studies for three years.
The pact does not last long due to the hunger of youth and the arrival of a young French Princess (Raina Lynn) and her posse of eligible young maids in waiting Rosaline (Rachael Soglin), Katherine (Amber Cartwright) and Maria (Katherine Duffy). Conveniently there is the requisite number of each sex for the two respective royal crews to square off.
The young men have soon forsaken their fasting and studies and have instead turned their hand to verses of love, while the ladies delight in disguising themselves and otherwise confounding their suitors for sport.
As with most of The Bard’s theatricals there are a few side trips not the least of which is a Spanish Lord Don Armado (Martin Diaz-Valdes) and doltish slave Costard (Johnny Kalita) pursuing the same country wench Jaquenetta (Daniela Martinez); and the play-within- a-play featuring the self-important teacher Holofernes (Alisha Fabbi) and his sycophant the curate Nathaniel (Jack Morsovillo).
There are any number of misadventures and miscommunications leading to riotous misunderstandings.
This play shows Shakespeare’s love of language as he plays with puns, double entendres and rude vernacular as well as French, and intentionally poorly written cliché poetry.
The Invictus Theatre ensemble could not have done a better job. My highest compliments to Director Dylan S. Roberts for supervising this incredibly entertaining, three-ring circus.
It should be noted that the Frontier is a comfortable storefront theater steps from the Thorndale Red Line El stop with about 75 well positioned seats and smallish floor level stage. So it is no small feat to wrangle about 17 actors in this tight space. No doubt Stage Manager Camille Oswald contributed to making this seem effortless.
Every actor’s entrance and exit was quick and meaningful, keeping this roughly two and a half hour production (with one intermission) snappy and well-paced.
The blocking was superb and the articulation and intonation of every line helped to clearly deliver the message in what could otherwise have been a muddled mess. Shout out to Paulette Hicks (Text Coach), Morgan Massaro (Assistant Director) and Stefanie M Senior (Sound Designer).
This is one of those times when I hate to single out any individual performer for fear of creating a competition in what was truly a well-tuned group effort. But what the heck I’ll do it anyway.
The great acting coach Stanislavski remarked that “there are no small parts, only small actors.” In this case a few of the smallest parts shone very brightly.
Rae Hamilton-Vargo was adorable and funny as the page “Moth.” The nonbinary actor was eerily reminiscent of Terry Kilburn who played young John Colley in the 1939 version of the film Goodbye Mr. Chips.
Morsovillo and Fabbi as Nathaniel and Holofernes offered ridiculous and hilarious pompous interludes that were both absurd and a refreshing break in the action. Steven Hermez in his first Shakespearean play was requisitely Dull in the role by the same name.
Martin Diaz-Valdes was having a great time with his part as the “zany foreigner” while Joseph Beal was spot-on as the only “adult” in the room, Boyet, charged with the supervision of the young ladies.
Johnny Kalita (though not exactly a small role) gave us everything he had milking every lick of humor out of his role as the inferior foolish Costard.
The young ladies were “tres magnifique” and young gentlemen were simply perfection.
The production is performed in the original period language but in modern dress with costumes by Satoe Schechner in front of a contemporary set design by Kevin Rolfs with lighting by Becs Bartle.
If you are not necessarily a Shakespeare fan, be not afraid. Shakespeare intended this to be enjoyed by people of all ages, social classes and education levels. You could probably not speak English and still understand pretty much what’s going on.
DETAILS: “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” an Invictus Theatre production, is at The Frontier, 1106 W. Thorndale, Chicago, through Nov. 18, 2018. Running time: 2 hrs, 30 min, with one intermission. For tickets and other information visit Brown Paper tickets
For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago