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Shakespeare classic with a contemporary spin

University of Alberta mounts Love's Labour's Lost

By: Anna Borowiecki

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Feb 05, 2014 06:00 am

ROMANTIC COMEDY – The University of Alberta's drama department is mounting Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost.
ROMANTIC COMEDY – The University of Alberta's drama department is mounting Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost.
ED ELLIS/Supplied photo

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Preview

Love’s Labour’s Lost
Feb. 6 to 15 at
University of Alberta Timm’s Centre for the Arts
87 Ave. and 112 St.
Tickets $11 to $22 evenings; $11 to $17 matinees
Call 780-420-1757 or online at tixonthesquare.ca

Shakespearean purists enjoy comparing the Bard’s plays to sparkling, multi-faceted gems. And so they are.

But some of the great Elizabethan playwright’s earliest plays are more akin to pearls – smooth of skin that glows with a light that illuminates from within.

Love’s Labour’s Lost is one such script and the University of Alberta graduating BFA drama students are opening with it on Thursday, Feb. 6 at the Timms Centre for the Arts. It runs until Saturday, Feb. 15.

The drama department chose the script and invited Kevin Sutley, University of Alberta Augustana Campus faculty member and co-founder of Kill Your Television Theatre, as guest director.

Sutley explains that for many years in the 19th century, Love’s Labour’s Lost was left to gather dust.

“It was unpopular because it’s a lot about language and there’s not a lot of action. It’s basically four couples meet and fall in love,” Sutley said.

It follows the King of Navarre and his three companions as they forswear the company of women for three years. Unfortunately, when the lovely Princess of Aquitaine and her three ladies arrive, the vows of chastity are tossed out with the dishwater.

The couples’ dreamy romances are interrupted when word arrives that the princess’s father has died. Now in mourning the ladies depart for the French court.

“The main theme we explore is that it’s a commentary on the nature of love – the funny, silly side of love based on chemistry and attraction. But in the end when all the frivolity dies away, the people are reminded about real life. Love isn’t just a romp in the park. Real love isn’t always sweet and flirtatious. Real love has to survive the test of time and get through the dark times.”

But while the majority of Shakespeare’s plays are written in free verse, Love’s Labour’s Lost is written in rhyming couplets.

“The first thing I clued into was all the rhyming language. It’s pretty rare. If you study Moliere in classical French tradition you see it, but it’s unusual to see it in English-speaking plays.

It can honestly feel like Dr. Seuss. At first I didn’t know how to downplay it. In the end we just went with the rhyming. It’s part of how he (Shakespeare) explores language. It’s wonderful comedy and very energetic.”

Sutley further added that although Shakespearean purists might not appreciate the rhyming language, it has a defined purpose.

“Some characters use language as way to point out the folly of language. When people realized the comedy in it, it came back into vogue. One of the other discoveries is that you think Shakespeare uses elevated language and grand themes. It is a romantic comedy, but there’s an earthy humour.

St. Albert actor Cristina Patalas is cast as Maria, one of the princess’s ladies of the court.

“She’s the youngest of the ladies. She’s very useful and naďve, but somewhat intelligent. In visiting the king, it’s like a vacation world for her. She’s free on this vacation and she’s flirtatious in a sweet way,” Patalas said.

Although not a pivotal role, Patalas is onstage throughout most of the play.

“It’s been a challenge taking a back seat and not doing much on stage. I’m on stage but I’m not speaking. It’s about being involved although it’s not about me. My job is being a supporter and making everybody look good.”

Sutley’s vision started with the idea of a fantasy world for lovers, an airy world built with aluminum poles and trees wrapped in white gauze.

The French court is decked in bright in-your face costumes that resemble a cross pollination between pop art, surrealist works and Alice in Wonderland.

“My costume is a like a combination weird comic book character and alien,” giggles Patalas.

While the script may be Shakespeare, the cast offers a healthy dose of contemporary fun.

Sutley closes saying, “It’s a play about love. And it is Valentine’s. I know what a pain Valentine’s is for guys especially if you want to do something different. This is different and it will hit the mark.”


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