Print Edition: July 15, 2015
The sun has this troublesome habit of setting in the west. Even more troublesome is that west was exactly the direction the audience faced as they waited for Bard in the Valley’s outdoor production of Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost to begin. As show time got closer, I grew very nervous about how I couldn’t see the stage for the big ball of fire burning my retinas — then, miraculously, the sun disappeared behind the set right as the first scene opened.
Community theatre is full of these setting-sun moments. A million things can go wrong in any live production, professional or not, and the potential for catastrophe compounds when it’s volunteers running the show. And things did go wrong; there were all kinds of issues with the microphones. Sometimes they wouldn’t turn on, and other times a loud static sound would boom from the speakers while the actors tried to deliver their lines.
But what separates a good show from a bad show isn’t really how much does or doesn’t go wrong so much as how the cast and crew deal with it. The mic mishaps were not only handled professionally by everybody — actors would just talk louder, or someone would go off-stage to bring on a different mic — but they were quickly and easily forgotten as soon as the performers made the audience laugh. And man oh man, did Bard in the Valley ever put on a funny show!
Love’s Labour’s Lost is the story of a group of guys swearing off women for the sake of study, and how a tricky group of ladies toy with the silly men and their impossible oath. The men try to woo the women while keeping up appearances to each other that they totally won’t undermine their bro-code, and the women are, unbeknownst to the men, completely aware of this. There is also a sub-plot involving incompetent messengers and mixed-up love letters. It’s all very funny on paper, but it’s even funnier live thanks to the sharp delivery of the performers, quite a few of whom have performed in UFV Theatre productions.
This particular production is re-situated in a modern Ivy-League setting, which fits well with the theme of a bunch of guys locking themselves away to study but doesn’t really affect the quality or clarity of the play either way. What the re-situation does, though, is allow for hilarious costuming opportunities. One scene takes place during a masquerade, but instead of everyone walking around in typical masque-wear, the ladies just put on shades a la Clark Kent and the men show up dressed like bikers. It’s ridiculous and awesome.
While everyone did well with their roles — Darcy Knopp as Berowne was particularly engaging during his sad, drunken soliloquy — the show-stealers were Annastasia Unger as Costard the clown, Luke Stevens as Armado the Spaniard, and Lauren Trotzuk as his sassy assistant, Moth.
Unger is vibrant, energetic, and just annoying enough to make the disrespect her character faces all the more funny. Stevens is loveably ridiculous in his role, and even though his accent sounds more Italian than Spanish, its flamboyance is wonderful. Trotzuk really knows how to use her face; little sarcastic half-smiles and pissed-off eyebrows convey their own non-verbal humour. Also, she sings beautifully.
Trotzuk is the production’s musical director, and the show contains two original songs by her. The songs are in a modern musical style, and the lyrics also use noticeably modern language. This would normally be terribly jarring in contrast to the Shakespearean stuff coming out of characters’ mouths the rest of the time, but in this case the jarring is good. The absurdity of the contrast itself is funny, and one of the most memorable aspects of the show.
Overall, this production is a good example of lighthearted community theatre. The fact that the show is outside at such a nice time of year and that truffle-oil popcorn and Township 7 wine are readily available definitely contribute to the entertainment. Even if you’re the kind of person who finds Shakespeare unbearable and incomprehensible, Bard in the Valley’s Love’s Labour’s Lost will make you choke on your opinion, if not on your own laughter.
Bard in the Valley’s Love’s Labour’s Lost continues to play at Township 7 Winery July 17 and 18 before moving to the Spirit Square Stage in Douglas Park in Langley City for a run covering July 23 to 26, July 30 and 31, and August 1 and 2. All shows are at 7 p.m. except Sundays, which are at 2 p.m.