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Theater Review

Actors Also Get Lost in 'Love's Labour's'

July 25, 2002|DARYL H. MILLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When actors master Shakespeare, the text becomes a symphony of rhythms and textures, conveying rich and varied meaning. When Shakespeare masters the actors, however, you've got a problem.

Sorry to say, the second scenario is playing out in the Long Beach Shakespeare Company's presentation of "Love's Labour's Lost," as hard-working but under-skilled actors get lost in the verbal thickets of one of the Bard's most challenging texts.

The intentions are good. This free outdoor production in Stearns Park is meant to reach out to the community, and the 16 performers--who range from a high school student to a lone member of the Actors' Equity stage union--reflect the area's diversity more comprehensively than many other productions. Although mostly young, these actors bring a variety of cultural and life experiences to the stage.

The text has them stymied, though.

Shakespeare used in-jokes and a lot of over-elaborate language to skewer the manners of certain intellectuals in 1590s England. To most of the performers, the words are like a foreign language, spoken by rote with little nuance. Others have begun to find color in the text but fall into galloping, repetitive rhythms.

The Elizabethan-dress staging--by company artistic director Helen Borgers--is likewise dull, with little variation or artistry in the actors' movement or placement.

Still, Shakespeare's message--that life is a classroom and people are the books--filters through.

Rod Weber and Angie Paul gamely engage in the romantic sparring between Berowne, who reluctantly joins his king in forswearing revelry and women's company so that they can focus on high-minded study, and Rosaline, one of the beguiling women who immediately put the men's principles to the test.

As a couple of rustic characters at the edges of the action, Jim Belisle and Liz Hurwitz are comic free spirits. And as the zany Spaniard Armado, Benito Borjas Jr. looks like an El Greco painting come crazily to life.

*

"Love's Labour's Lost," Stearns Park, 23rd Street and Argonne Avenue, Long Beach. Saturdays-Sundays, 5 p.m. Ends Aug. 4. Free. (562) 997-1494. Running time: 2 hours, 35 minutes.

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