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2018 July 18

Santa Cruz Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost

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Last week my wife, my mother-in-law, and I went to see the first preview of Love’s Labour’s Lost performed by Santa Cruz Shakespeare in Delaveaga Park.  The play has a simple, rather obvious plot, but there is a lot of fun wordplay (much of which is lost on modern audiences, even with a good dramaturg and director).  I suspect that SCS chose the play partly for the ease of understanding, but also because the near gender balance of the play makes their policy of gender-balanced casting easier.

Only four parts are cast cross-gender: Moth, Boyet, Holofernes, and the messenger Marcadé).  Moth is supposed to be young enough that gender is really irrelevant, Holofernes works perfectly well as a schoolmarm rather than a schoolmaster, and the messenger Marcadé is just a messenger, whose gender doesn’t matter.  That leaves Boyet, who is normally a lord attending the French princess and is often played as an older, gay man.  Converting the part to that of a middle-aged woman works well enough, except for one exit, when Boyet is sent to the King’s court, where no women are allowed.

SCS’s performance is worth seeing, but not stellar.  I found the performances by Tommy Gomez (as Don Adriano de Armado) and Kailey Azure Green (as his page Moth) to be the best—Don Adriano comes across more 3-dimensional than the part is usually played without losing any of the humor, and Kailey captured the essence of Moth well.

Usually Berowne’s part is the best one, but I did not find Brian Ibsen to be a convincing Berowne.  He rushed the speeches a bit and did not seem really to get into the part (he also may be a bit old for the part—he should be the quintessential fratboy, not obviously 10–15 years older than the other lords).  I suspect that he’ll do better as Thomas in Venus in Fur.

The four ladies of France, with Boyet barely visible in back. Photo from https://www.santacruzshakespeare.org/about/media-room/

The costuming was good (1916?), but the set was rather dull. Perhaps it will look better when it is lighted at night (the first preview is a matinée).  I’ll get another chance to see the performance in the evening with the lighting near the end of the run—perhaps I’ll change my mind about the set then.

 

2016 June 11

Love’s Labour’s Lost

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Boyet with the ladies of France

Boyet with the ladies of France

Last weekend, my wife and I took a trip down to Santa Barbara, for three purposes:

  • To see our son play Boyet in Love’s Labour’s Lost with Shakespeare in the Park
  • To bring him two large wheeled duffel bags that we had stored for him
  • To bring back about 100 pounds of his luggage

Earlier in the week, we had seen UCSC’s Shakes to Go do a very stripped down version of Love’s Labour’s Lost (45 minutes) at the elementary school where my wife works. It was interesting to contrast the two productions: one of which has to travel and be performed for elementary and middle-school audiences with no on-stage rehearsal, and the other which is only performed twice before a primarily adult audience.

The UCSC version had to be ruthlessly cut to fit in the class period schedules of schools, and almost all the verbal jests had to be jettisoned. Given that the play is full of now-obscure puns and sexual innuendo, there was not much left but the bare bones of the plot. It was still funny enough to amuse the students, but it was a bit unsatisfying for adults.  All 10 actors were theater majors, which is not surprising given the time commitment (a quarter of rehearsals, followed by a quarter with dozens of performances, each of which can take up a full morning).

The UCSB version was not cut as drastically (about twice as long with a running time of 1:28), but many of Berowne’s longer speeches were cut to the bone, and some jokes were lost.  The costuming was more elaborate for this production, and there was less double casting (17 actors instead of 10 makes a huge difference).  Several of the actors were not theater majors and one did not even have English as a native language, but the acting and directing was overall very good.

I took my cameras with me to UCSB and recorded the two performances of the play (with the permission of the director), so you can see for yourself how the production went (I think I did a better job of filming for the Sunday production than the Saturday one):

Saturday:

Sunday:

We were in a hurry on Saturday, so we took the Greyhound from Santa Cruz to Santa Barbara, making it in time to eat supper with him at Buddha Bowls before his 5:00 call.  Greyhound is the fastest public transit to Santa Barbara, but we prefer the comfort of the Coast Starlight train, even though it adds several hours to the trip, so we took the Coast Starlight and the Highway 17 Express back on Monday.

We had some time to kill between feeding him and the performance starting at 7:30, so we walked around the lagoon on the UCSB, which has quite a variety of birds (we saw egrets, cormorants, and a great blue heron).

I believe that this heron we saw is a great blue heron, based on pictures of herons I found on the web.

I believe that this heron we saw is a great blue heron, based on pictures of herons I found on the web.

On Sunday, we helped clean part of the apartment and pack most of his clothes and bedding, leaving him with enough to get through to his trip home on Wednesday.  He ended up with an easily managed load of luggage, after he stored his bicycle with the police for the summer (a very handy service that cuts down on bike theft and abandoned bikes).

The large rolling duffel bag that we brought home for him was overloaded (68 pounds, compared to Amtrak’s 50lb limit), so I had to rearrange the luggage at the train station on Monday—I’d anticipated this need, so it only took a couple of minutes to remove the already packed pannier from the duffel, and transfer a few clothes to the carry-on suitcase.

One big difference from when I was a student is that he had practically no books—what few textbooks he’d had this year he’d been able to get electronically, and most of his recreational reading is from the web rather than on paper.

We had a little time to kill Sunday afternoon while he caught up on sleep (there’d been a cast party Sat night), so we looked at the newly refurbished library on the UCSB campus. The facilities seem quite nice, but were overloaded on the weekend before finals.  There seem to be enough computers and power outlets, but not enough WiFi bandwidth (we heard students talking about going elsewhere to study, because of problems with the WiFi).

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