PHASE: EIGHT THEATRE COMPANY DUAL CRITICS REVIEW
Phase:Eight Theatre completed its first season of production with William Shakespeare’s comedy “Love’s Labour’s Lost” on December 14-16 at WJCT Studios in Jacksonville Florida. This has been a great first year for JaMario Stills, Founder/Artistic Director of Phase:Eight. They performed an excellent revival of Arthur Miller’ s “All of My Sons”, three world premiere’s with “On Purpose”, “MLK Blvd”, and “ Live Girls”, and the cutting edge “Jesus Hopped the A Train.
Shakespeare wrote thirty seven plays with his comedies being among the most popular. Love’s Labour’s Lost is one of the first he wrote and is not among the most popular of his humorous plays but it is very interesting and entertaining none the less. It has the distinction of having longest first act of any of his works. It has been performed by mostly by theatre’s that specialize in Shakespeare. It was made into a Hollywood musical in 2000 by Kenneth Branagh with two well know actors in the cast; Alicia Silverstone and Nathan Lane. It had a limited release and only made $284,000 dollars and cost $ 13 million to make.
Director Stills has set the play in the 1970’s. We have our own idea why the Bard’s plays are done in different time periods. First would be the cost of costumes which are not cheap to rent or make. The cast in this one was able to pretty much use their own clothing or find suitable attire at a thrift shop. A second reason is that it is FUN. As we saw in the 2nd act of this play when Richard Nixon (David H.Horn) suddenly appeared before the giant presidential seal and surprise visit by Bob Dylan (Cory Driscoll). They were big in the 70’s.
The play opens with the King of Navarre (Mitchell Wohl) and his three companions Dumaine (Hays Jacobs), Berowne (Rich Pintello) and Longaville (Jack Permeter) swearing to give up all women for three years so they can fast and devote themselves to scholarship and study.
Were they serious about this? Yes, they even had to sign a contract for the King. The plan is soon derailed when the Princess of France (Miles Laura Para) arrives to do business with the King. She is accompanied by her three ladies in waiting Katherine (Rhodie Jackson), Rosaline (Becca Wucker) and Maria (Kristen Walsh). Love blossoms between the guys and the gals despite the men’s vows of celibacy.
The King, staying with his oath does not allow the Princess and the ladies into his castle so they meet in the garden. The men have fallen in love with the women. Each man has a hiding spot to observe the other reading aloud sonnets they have written to their beloveds. The King is in love with the Princess, Berowne with Rosaline, Logaville with Maria and Duaine with Katherine.
Love is everywhere, not only between the visitors but the natives as well. Evie Day is Boyet, a very intelligent attendant to the Princess who is an advisor and messenger between the King and his friends and the Princess. Costard, a clownish character who delivers messages was played by Matt Tompkins and he also has a love interest in a local maiden Jaquenetta (Isabella Martinez). Jaquenetta is a popular lady who is also pursued by the bragging Spaniard Don Armado (Cory Driscoll), who plays a guitar. Amber Brown is the colorful/feisty page to Don Armado. Kelby Siddons is the local deputy with the name Dull but Kelby is anything but dull and serves as the Text Coach for this production and is very familiar with Shakespeare having directed “Macbeth” and appeared “The Merchant of Venice”. Rounding out the cast are Holoforness (Clauda Laster) and Nathaniel (David H. Horne).She a teacher and he is a man of the cloth.Together are a source of good advice.
All the action takes place on a TV sound stage which has benches for a garden. The back wall is a giant screen and provides marvelous backdrops for the 2 act action.
Love’s Labour’s Lost has many of the Shakespeare trademarks like mistaken identity, twists and turns, misdirected letters, a play within a play. This play has a rather ambivalent ending with all the ladies go back home and we wondered if the Princess and the King will ever get back together. Was it really love or just a passing fancy;.
It takes skillful actors to handle the language, wordplay and gestures in this complex plot and the sixteen actors were all superb.
Phase:Eight will announce next year’s schedule on or around January 1 2018.
JaMario Stills (Director), Heather Moore (Producer) Charles Stills (Set Design) Threadford Christian (Production Design)