Shakespeare Santa Cruz’s ‘Love’s Labors Lost’ shines
Rap music, dancing soccer players, dreadlocks, joint smoking, and a bicycle cop eating donuts would come as no shock to any Santa Cruzan. That is except, perhaps, as elements of a Shakespeare production. Shakespeare Santa Cruz’s 29th season includes all of these things and then some, and succeeds in carrying the markedly era-confined play over into the 21st century.
Under the clever direction of Scott Wentworth, Shakespeare Santa Cruz breaks “Love’s Labor’s Lost” from its traditionally unpopular role. On opening night, well-timed laughter spills from coat-clad audience members that sit in the UC Santa Cruz Festival Glen and trickles across the wooden set back through a backdrop of redwood trees. “Love’s Labor’s Lost” is a highly intellectual work that uses the elaborate witticisms of Shakespeare in the 1590s to grapple with the victories and inadequacies of language in relationships. The droll plot tests the oaths of the king and his men, sending them on abrupt forays into matters of the heart when the Princess of France and her ladies come to stay. The play dabbles with everything from love, to loss, to sex, to death, learning, duty, and wisdom.
Jaquenetta (Shashona Brooks), the “country wench” became a dreadlocked street babe, and Costard the “clown” became a stoned skater with a drawl reminiscent of the Westside surfer crew of Santa Cruz (J. Todd Adams). The juxtaposition of characters like Costard and hyper-intellectuals such as the “king,” whose character was something like a university dean, made puns and wordplay clear to the audience by way of high fives left hanging and well-blocked slapstick and
Anyone who is unfamiliar with “Love’s Labor’s Lost” will be met with an entertaining rendition of a comical play writ with sharp banter and consistent wordplay that is brilliantly executed, with timeless battles of the sexes that stem from mixed-up love letters and messages, and a dark final twist that jolts all involved back to the harsh realities that can taint and complicate human relationships. Those familiar with the show will be pleasantly flabbergasted by its skillfully modern implementation of Shakespearean wordplay, brilliant costumes, and extremely well-employed characters. From a Rosaline whose spunk would oblige the likes of Ani Difranco (Dana Green), to a middle-aged schoolmaster, Holofernes, who dazzles with his sudden MC skills turning a soliloquy into an uproarious rap (Jeff Mills), the play’s characters are particularly well engaged and their energy is catching.
Although the final scene’s commentary on the passage of time is converted into a song that makes it feel as though a bit too much time is passing at almost 11 p.m. on a rather nippy night, the musical talents of the cast and crew were inarguable. The play’s final message that leaves fates up to the test of time is deeply conveyed, and audiences wander from the Glen verbally applauding the Santa Cruz references, bright costumes, and impeccable direction.
For more information, visit Shakespearesantacruz.com.