While the lovers in Shakespeare's Love Labor's Lost might be left unfulfilled, that is not the case for audiences of Idaho Shakespeare Festival's latest production. From opening curtain through the final bow, the production is a well-paced romp through romantic absurdities and a celebration of the power of the ensemble.
As the saying goes, there are no small roles, and that is especially true in this case where individually strong performances build upon and accentuate each other to create a whole even more powerful. With a cast made up of familiar ISF players and newcomers alike, the rapport between the actors is undeniable as they work together to create a performance that is in turns laugh-out-loud funny and quietly touching.
In her directorial debut with ISF, Tyne Rafaeli has successfully blended modern culture with traditional Shakespeare in a way that never feels forced or odd. Modern inclusions—whether it's a simple vocal inflection or even a rap—enrich the source material rather than feel like they've been jammed in to get a laugh. Rafaeli makes good use of her cast's talent for physical comedy and she clearly allowed the actors to have fun with their roles, which infuses the production with creative energy.
Love's Labor's Lost is the story of the King of Navarre and his entourage of three young lords who have pledged to dedicate themselves to academia for three years. They are not to speak or even look at women, lest they be distracted from their studies. Yeah, that doesn't last long.
Enter the Princess of France and her ladies in waiting—who have one of the best entrances, undeniably channeling Beyonce. Surrounded by clowns, servants, scholars, a Spanish knight and a possibly Canadian constable, there are misplaced letters, mistaken identities and open mocking—the best of a Shakespearean comedy.
The refreshing combination of returning cast members and first-timers plays upon the strengths of both and Love's Labor's Lost is well worth the price of a ticket for longtime lovers of Shakespeare as well as anyone who just loves a good comedy.