Love’s Labor’s Lost by Friends’ Central School in Wynnewood, PA
February 25, 2020
Review submitted by Aurelle Odhner of Academy of the New Church
“I’m pickin’ up good vibrations…” coming from Friends’ Central School, where Shakespeare met the Beach Boys in a vibrant reimagining of the classic comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost.
Shakespeare’s witty, wordy drama was given new life in this creative revival. Friends’ Central School maintained the familiar storyline, which follows the King of Navarre and his three companions, who make a pact to seclude themselves in study and stay away from women for three years. They face challenges, however, when the princess of France and her three ladies pay them a visit. The absurdity that ensues includes hilarity, heartbreak, and a healthy, Shakespearean dose of haphazard plans gone awry. This production’s unique sixties setting and modern musical interludes added layers of youthfulness, relevance, and new meaning to the Bard’s timeless work.
Friend’s Central School took on a challenging script with an unexpected twist and made it their own. The costumes, lighting, special effects, music, and especially the cast’s energy all worked together to immerse the audience in a sandy, carefree world. The performers demonstrated immense versatility by shifting freely between displaying their acting, voices, and instrumental skills. The cast also showed a thorough understanding of their iambic dialogue, and delivered lines with exceptional confidence and natural ease.
The highly capable cast was led by a number of standout actors. Ian Duane seemed born to play Berowne, perfectly marrying his confident, relaxed movements and sixties swagger with sixteenth century turn of phrase. Alexa Connors played the princess with immaculate poise. Her sharp wit and haughty glance gave her a stage presence like no other. Emma Gordon’s sweet smile and coquettish confidence drew the attention of the audience and suitors alike in her role as Rosaline.
The cast’s energy and camaraderie lent Shakespeare’s eloquent script all the joyful spontaneity of a beach party. The trio of Lostettes filled the auditorium with their lilting voices and spot-on harmonies. Actors like Benny Flora set the mood with his surfer-dude delivery of Elizabethean prose, sending the audience into peals of laughter over his performance of Costard. Julia Dani was also a highlight with her fearless attitude and dramatic reactions.
The confusion of so many star-crossed lovers was made clear by Sophia Haggray’s costumes. Her meticulous color coordination, bright bikinis, and sheer volume of garments kept the cast well-dressed at all times and contributed significantly to the storytelling. The orchestra, too, did its share of expression, thanks largely to the efforts of Evan Sweitzer who arranged and coordinated the student performed music that kept the audience dancing in their seats the whole show.
The students at Friends’ Central School deftly brought Shakespeare’s comedy into the light of the summer sun, showing us how literature’s timeless messages hold relevance for us in any era.
Review submitted by Clara Steege of Conestoga High School
Friends’ Central School’s creative take on Shakespeare’s Love’s Labor’s Lost truly transported the audience… to a 1960’s beach! Though the show maintained the traditional Shakespearean script, the change of setting and addition of Beach Boys songs added fresh character.
Love’s Labor’s Lost follows the King of Navarre and his lords as they swear to forsake the company of women in favor of academic study. However, the arrival of the Princess of France jeopardizes the men’s plan when they find themselves enamored with the Princess’s ladies. Through the course of mix-ups and deceit, the lords must find a way to deal with their love.
The performance excelled at maintaining the core of Shakespeare’s work with many inventive embellishments. While costumes and props embodied the 60’s, the acting made the characters accessible to any era.
All of the performers excelled at connecting with the audience, which allowed them to communicate the story even when the Shakespearean language was difficult to understand. As Berowne, Ian Duane’s facial expressions and comedic timing made the audience roar with laughter. He interacted well with Thad Bashaw, Will Bozman, and Casper Hoffmann, the other men of Navarre, whose joking comradery provided much of the humor. The Princess of France and her ladies embodied a similar dynamic; their clever trickery was a highlight of the show. In particular, Alexa Connors carried herself and spoke in a manner that conveyed the poise and wit of her character, the Princess.
Julia Dani, playing the ladies’ chaperone Boyet, also communicated the personality of her role. Through sarcastic tones and snarky facial expressions, she demonstrated an entertaining attitude. Benny Flora gave a hilarious performance as a muddled surfer dude, Costard. He maintained his character through every scene, even ad-libbing as he exited through the aisles.
The technical elements played a crucial role in establishing the setting. The set and lighting instantly transformed the stage into a beach. From palm trees to sandcastles, the attention to detail provided a rich backdrop and colorful lights created a playful mood. An array of lively costumes and props, including bathing suits for beach scenes, embodied 60’s vitality. Still, the addition of Beach Boys music, directed by Evan Sweitzer and performed by the Beach Band, took the show to another level. The songs corresponded well to the events in the script and added an element of fun.
Friends’ Central School’s imaginative retelling of Shakespeare’s classic work was a big success. The actors and crew collaborated to put on a vivacious, energized performance.