Saturday, July 2, 2022

"Love's Labor's Lost" by Classical Actors Ensemble and Como Lakeside Pavilion

Classical Actors Ensemble's free Shakespeare in area parks is an annual #TCTheater summer tradition that's been happening every year since 2014 (except for 2020). They do Shakespeare like it was meant to be - accessible, playful, and fun. This year they're bringing us one of Shakespeare's earliest and lesser known comedies - Love's Labor's Lost. They've set this rom-com in a modern day prep school, reenvisioning the characters as students, professors, and campus staff. It works, and it's a whole lot of fun. I saw the show on a stage at Como Lakeside Pavilion, but mostly they perform on a green lawn in a Twin Cities area park - click here to find a location near you (through July 17).

the color-coded cast of Love's Labor's Lost (photo courtesy of CAE)
The King of Navarre, here the top jock on campus (Cody C. Carlson), encourages three of his friends (Brandon Herring, Garrett Hildebrandt, and Jackson Hoemann) to join him for three years of studying and fasting away from the dangerous charms of women. It's not long before the the Princess of France, aka the popular girl (Olivia Kemp), and her posse (Katrina Stelk, Maddy LaRoche, and Hadley Evans Nash) arrive and all of those plans go out the window. Each of the boys attempt to secretly woo one of the the girls, but soon they all join forces and agree that love is as worthy a pursuit as study. The girls play a trick on them by switching identities, but eventually the matches are made and they settle in to watch a talent show by the staff, including professor Holofernes (Tom Conry) and charming Spanish visiting professor Don Armado (Dominic Rodgers).

Don Armado (Dominic Rodgers) entertains the crowd
(photo courtesy of CAE)
Directed by Hannah Steblay and Samantha V. Papke, the cast is playful and present, interacting a bit with the crowd (in a non-threatening way). Music is used throughout the show, sung by the school choir, natch. They sing pop songs in a choral style, including at a pre-show show. The costumes are cool, clever, and colorful - uniforms for the various staff members; prep school uniforms and several changes for the four couples, each wearing a different color (white, yellow, pink, and blue) so we remember who's who and who belongs with whom; and Don Armado's smashing red suit. Set pieces include shrubbery and bushes as well as a few elevated platforms (costume design by Lolly Foy and Molly Smith, scenic designer by Justin Hooper).

A silly Shakespearean rom-com in one of the Twin Cities' beautiful parks is truly one of the pleasures of a Minnesota summer. Visit Classical Actors' Ensemble's website to find a convenient date and location and make your free reservation (not necessary but it helps them with planning, and you get an email with site and weather details the day of the show).