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Single ladies having fun in 'Love's Labor's Lost'
Who cares who wrote it? 'Love's Labor's Lost' gets charming new production at Public Theater
By The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) ' Who really wrote "Love's Labor's Lost"?

And really, who cares?

It seems fitting that the Public Theater's fresh and charming version of this early Shakespearean comedy arrives just days after the Hollywood film "Anonymous," as if to remind us that the important thing is simply to enjoy the Bard's work, whoever he (or she, or they) happened to be.

And enjoy, the audience does ' perhaps even as much as the nimble cast, which seems to be having a wonderful time in this production that opened Monday.

In part, it could be the cool costumes director Karin Coonrod has given her actors: Smart tailored suits for the guys, and crisp white shirts, billowing trousers and half-skirts for the women that all seem to come from some fun downtown boutique.

But probably it's the inherent humor of the language, fully mined by Coonrod and her players, that's the cause of the merriment.

Consider a mere three-word riposte: "With THAT face?" It's uttered by Jacquenetta, the "wench" with whom the Spanish knight Armado is smitten. It could be a throwaway line ' it means, essentially, "You don't say!" ' but Stephanie DiMaggio, speaking in a deep, faux Latin accent, turns it into a deadpan zinger that justifiably earns laughs.

"Love's Labor's Lost" may not be Shakespeare's most popular play, but it's one of his more interesting, especially because it flouts certain conventions in the rest of his work. Normally, at the end of one of these comedies about love ' even the dark ones ' the couples end up heading to the altar.

Not here, though. The "single ladies" of this play have some difficult hoops they want their men to jump through first. (And yes, Beyonce's "Single Ladies" makes a cameo appearance here).

The plot centers around the King of Navarre (a fun-loving and beautifully spoken Hoon Lee) and three companions, who make an ambitious vow to swear off the company of women for three years, focusing on study (fittingly, they're dressed as schoolboys at the start.)

Best-laid plans, as they say: The princess of France is on her way with three ladies. Instantly, all four men are in love.

The king tries mightily to resist the charms of the princess (the appealing Rene Elise Goldsberry). Even more tortured is the jaunty, self-involved Berowne, who discovers with alarm that he's in love with Rosaline.

Berowne has some of the play's best lines, and Nick Westrate makes the most of them, flying around the theater and sitting next to audience members to vent some of his stress (an elderly woman at a recent performance did her best to ignore him). "O, my little heart," he gushes, and suddenly he's rolling around on the ground. "Well ... I will love!" he finally declares, his hair sticking out on its ends ' a neat trick ' as he finishes.

Indeed, Coonrod has all her actors make great use of the Anspacher Theater's space ' there they are in the last row, or on the steps, chasing and tackling each other next to bemused theatergoers.

Though some of the comedy bits go on a little too long in this play, the cast is game for the humor. Robert Stanton is great fun as a goofy constable ' with a southern accent. Reg E. Cathey (Armado), Steven Skybell (Holofernes) and Francis Jue (Sir Nathaniel) all tear into their comic roles.

Comedy reigns for most of the play, peaking in the scene where the suitors disguise themselves as Muscovites to woo their women. But suddenly, the mood shifts at the end, with the news of the death of the King of France, father of the princess. Now the women must leave.

Will the couples unite in matrimony? Not so fast.

"Our wooing doth not end like an old play," says Berowne, at the end. "Jack hath not Jill." No, and that makes it much more interesting.

Whoever wrote it.



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