Love’s Labour’s Lost is one of Shakespeare’s most mannered and formulaic comedies, deploying four mix-and-match couples in a plot that kicks off when the King of Navarre and three attending lords swear to abjure women for books — just as the Princess of France and three lovely ladies show up to start a war between ideal and inclination that’s settled only when the quickest of the male quartet declares women’s eyes “the books, the arts, the academes.” And lest the wooing, mocking, and apostrophizing seem confined to the aristocracy, there are subplots: the dueling lusts of clown Costard and fantastical Spaniard Don Armado for the wench Jacquenetta, and the arcane jawboning of curate Nathaniel and schoolmaster Holofernes. These are overseen by the wise-child page Moth — at ASP the only part that gets its own actor, the savvy Khalil Flemming.
The others pull off some bravura switches, including Marianna Bassham’s physically adroit triple turn as a Rosalind Russell–esque Rosaline, an adorably chicken-winged Costard, and a too-lunkheaded Dumaine. Jason Bowen, just one of the guys when he’s not one of the girls, misses the glib brilliance of Rosalind’s standout opposite, Berowne, but Shakespeare & Company vet Johnny Lee Davenport makes an aptly intense, fancy-language-butchering Don Armado. And you have to admire Evett’s sheer skill of deployment: it’s a wonder none of the actors winds up making love to himself. Of course, some would say that’s what Navarre and his posse, using female peepers as mirrors, are all about.
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