Love’s Labour’s Lost

Love’s Labour’s Lost could be entitled Lust’s Labour’s Lost, because  its central theme is that the expressions of love may be just as self-indulgent as lust and that is advisable before marriage to distinguish between hormonal love and husband material. To emphasize the self-indulgent nature of  men,  the director of Seattle Shakespeare’s current production of LLL, Jon Kretzu,  opens the play the morning after a party of the Bright Young Things of the 1920’s immortalized by Evelyn Waugh in numerous novels including Vile Bodies and Brideshead Revisited.  

 This time period was almost perfect as a setting for the play, as the era was self-indulgent,  driven by youthful energy and impulses, but on the other hand, the aesthetes and  especially the teddy-bear carrying Sebastian Flyte,  cloned in this production as Berowne, were hormonally inclined towards each other rather than the opposite sex.

 Although the play was clearly set in the 20’s complete with Jazz,  frivolity, cocktails and prairies oysters,  the women’s costumes and hats were clearly 30’s.  The young people of the 30’s were entirely different from the Bright Young Things of the 20’s,.  The Youth of the 30’s were extremely political due to fascism in Germany and Italy, the Spanish Civil War and the depression.  Frivolity was out; political commitment either for socialism or fascism was de rigeur.  For example, Diana Mitford to whom Evelyn Waugh dedicated Vile Bodies, was part of the Bright Young Things of the 20’s but married Sir Oswald Mosely, head of the British Union of Fascists, in 1936 at the Chancellery in Berlin with Hitler in attendance.  Although the costumes were well-done, mixing the eras made for a slight disconnect.

 The director pulled together a lot of period details which were delightful, not only is there a prairie oyster, a 20’s antidote for a hang-over, but Berowne cracks the raw egg and swallows it  onstage.  The sound design by Robertson Witmer, was superbly authentic and certainly added to the atmosphere of frivolity. 

 The play itself is not easily staged as it does not have much action, and the plot is rather slight, it could easily have been the prototype for many Gilbert and Sullivan plays-a chorus of men and a chorus of women end up marrying each other.   The text is extremely long and could have used some cutting as it dragged in places

 Two of the actors stood out: Allan Armstrong as Holofernes, the pedantic academic  and Paul Stuart as Berowne, the leading man, because they were the only two actors who consistently demonstrated the ability to speak naturally using a British accent to deliver Shakespeare.   Although I would say that vocally Seattle Shakespeare Company has come a long way in the last few years, about 15% of the dialogue was incomprehensible.  The female lead, Samara Lerman, ended up sounding shrill a lot of the time, due to speaking above her optimal pitch in an attempt to sound more British.  

 All in all this was a good production of a not very good play and seemed to illustrate the occupational hazard of a Shakespeare company-they want to stage the whole cannon but not all the plays are brilliant as stage-plays.  However, the director Jon Kretzu certainly put a lot of creativity into this play making it more accessible that it would have been otherwise.   

 Love’s Labour’s Lost by William Shakespeare.  Seattle Shakespeare Company.  Center House Theatre. Center House, Seattle Center 305 Harrison. Seattle 98109,  March 13-April 7, 2013.  www.






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