A production of Love’s Labour’s Lost by Cincinnati Outdoor Classics on a temperate Saturday afternoon held out such a promise. This youthful play is perfect for college students (the company is an outgrowth of the drama program at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music) because it’s about young love and naive vows, plus a lot of tomfoolery. Four young noblemen idealistically decide to forsake the company of women, then immediately regret their decision when they meet four attractive ladies. Rationalization and embarrassment ensue, with several minor characters adding hilarity.
The energy of this company is evident, but the challenges of performing in the open air are tough.
It’s hard to hear un-amplified voices, but it’s just as tough to listen to intermittent amplified sound that crackles constantly. Grasping the action is a challenge, especially with antic characters in contemporary dress — two traditionally male roles, Boyet (Mikayla Stanley) and Mote (Caroline Shannon), have become sharp-tongued, funkily clad young women; fathoming their roles takes studied concentration. The rustic clown Costard (Alec Silberblatt) and the “fantastical Spaniard” Armado (Mack Harden) are amusing, but their dense, stylized monologues are tough to appreciate.
Able performances are offered by Ben Cramer as the cynical Berowne, Casey Leach as the high-handed king, Clare Ward as the pragmatic princess and Jordan Schramka as a sharp-tongued lady. An amusing tableau about the “Nine Worthies” is genuinely funny. Too often, however, the humor onstage are jokes the audience isn’t quite in on.
Outdoor performance demands brevity and clarity, and director Dale Doerman would have done well to trim the script. Half the small audience departed at intermission. I stayed but wished for more reward for doing so.
Still, Shakespearean comedy on a pleasant afternoon is a fine way to wile away a few weekend hours.
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