Loves Labours Lost by The Moving Company at the Lab Theater

nathan_keepers_heidi_bakkesteve_eppThe Moving Company’s reimagined “Love’s Labours Lost” is not your usual Shakespeare play, but this company “reimagines” theater the way the rest of us order lunch. This show is clever, beautiful and downright funny. Steven Epp’s and Nathan Keepers’ performances, co-imagined and directed by Dominique Serrand, are physical comedy marvels. Paired with Heidi Bakke as Jacquenetta, the threesome snatches the show away from the long-winded but famously witty speeches Shakespeare provided, fashioning another show altogether—sort of a parallel universe to the familiar story, smooshed together in a glorious assemblage of death scenes and iconic lines from all (yes, they claim all!) of the Bard’s plays.

Oh, yes. The “other” play …

The former King of Navarre (Hugh Kennedy) returns home, defeated, with his close associates Berowne (Jim Lichtscheidl), Longaville (Lucas Melsha) and Dumaine (Ricardo Vaquez). Navarre determines that he and his men must spend the next three years in quiet study, sleeping little, eating but one meal a day, and shunning all female companionship. Of course that’s when the women show up: the Princess of France (Jennifer Baldwin Peden), Rosaline (Maggie Chestovich), Maria (Emily King), and Katherine (Ashley Rose Montondo).

The wild card in all of this is the ridiculous Don Adriano de Armado (Epp), who is smitten by the voluptuous and charmingly dim-witted Jacquenetta, and accompanied by his equally outrageous page, Moth (Keepers).

Even beyond the inimitable Epp and Keepers, this is the men’s production.

Peden was a pale, distracted Princess; as the only royal, Navarre must be her choice. That’s not enough to make it interesting, though, is it? Kennedy seemed quite the perfect fit to play the dashing Navarre, who could have made these lovers sizzle, but not on his own. Montondo was charming and nicely matched with Vazquez, whose Dumaine is dutiful and youthful. As much as Chestovich was a feisty Rosaline, her scenes came off more as intelligently rehearsed speeches.

The interesting twist in all this was in transforming the relationship between Maria and Longaville into a silent dance. Their execution of the descriptive choreography, particularly King’s, was informative and beautiful, and although it was a bit too far afield of the other character interpretations, it was easily the most engaging love relationship.

In contrast to these lovers, who one by one proclaim their devotion for each other in longish soliloquys, Keepers, Epp and Bakke dish out a landslide of saucy dialog perfectly timed to their clowning.

The lovers have one clown among them, though. Acomplished in physical comedy in his own right, Lichtsheidl is a dandy match for Keepers and Epp and supplied a credible—and needed—bridge between Shakespeare’s play and … well, all the other plays in Keepers’ and Epps’ crazy mashup.

I can’t help but wonder if it could have been any one of Shakespeare’s more thoughtful comedies that served as a vehicle for their masterful physical schtick. There were two plays, it seemed to me, that intertwined here and there, but were stylistically different enough that the connecting plot points seemed almost coincidental.

Bottom line on this one? Everything The Moving Company does is interesting, and just a little bit dangerous. I’ll happily tolerate some small “misses” in a show with this company just to see how they walk that fine line. You really should go see for yourself. It runs through Dec. 21.

 

 

 

 

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