LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST by William Shakespeare, directed by Joseph Ziegler, with Jonathan Geenen, Madeleine Donohue, Neil Mathews, Benjamin Clost, Michael Spasevski and Genevieve Adam. George Brown Theatre (530 King West). Runs to November 17, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, Saturday matinee 2 pm. $12, matinee pwyc. 416-415-2167.
with its wit play and extended poetry, Love's Labour's Lost is one of Shakespeare's more difficult plays to produce successfully. That's what makes the George Brown Theatre production, featuring members of the graduating class, all the more impressive. Under director Joseph Ziegler, the company creates a world of youthful high spirits, flirtation and heartfelt truths that compares favourably to the best I've seen.At its centre are the king of Navarre and three of his lords, who swear off women and other pleasures to devote themselves to three years of philosophical studies. Enter, immediately, the princess of France and three of her ladies, and the plot starts to unroll. Shakespeare adds several language-loving and -mangling clowns and a lusty country wench to the mix.
Though the abilities of the cast are variable, there are more hits than misses among the young actors. Quicksilver with his tongue and mood shifts, Jonathan Geenen captures the rakish, teasing qualities of Berowne, the most articulate of the lords, and Madeleine Donohue's Rosaline returns his verbal volleys with skill.
Playing the royalty, Michael Spasevski and Genevieve Adam are also worthy sparring partners. As the grandiloquent, learned fools in Navarre's court, the swaggering Neil Mathews and punctilious Benjamin Clost handle the sometimes dense text adeptly.
Ziegler's done a fine job of making the work clear to his actors and helping them share their discoveries with the audience by pointing the language intelligently and creating characters with believable feelings. The energy level drops occasionally in the second half, but Ziegler entertains us with the early comedy -- especially in the surefire eavesdropping scene, as the men hide their infatuations but are soon forced to reveal them -- and then beautifully catches the autumnal chill near the script's end.