Shakespeare was outplayed by Pokémon at the opening night of Bard on Bower’s Love’s Labour’s Lost.
On the outdoor stage at Bower Ponds, the King of Navarre and his companions were pledging to forsake the company of women for three years of scholarly study in William Shakespeare’s comedy.
Meanwhile, real life was proving more bizarre than art.
Off stage at Bower Ponds, hundreds of local Pokémon Go players began showing up on Thursday evening to mill around the paths, seeking to ‘capture’ virtual-reality characters with their smart phones.
The Prime Stock Theatre actors didn’t seem to mind the constant distraction of people walking around with an eye on their electronics. In fact, at intermission, the actors invited a fuzzy, yellow Pikachu mascot to come out as a photo-op thank-you to the Pokémon players who helped the theatre company crack down on vandals. (The players captured video images of the jerks who allegedly trashed part of the Bard on Bower set early on Monday and turned these over to police).
Unfortunately, all of Thursday’s non-theatrical activity clogged up parking and didn’t help the opening night production, which was over-long and far too verbose to fit any modern sense of a frothy, romantic comedy.
There were certainly some positives about the show: Love’s Labour’s Lost was winningly reset in the 1950s, was exceptionally well acted, and contained snippets of toe-tapping Buddy Holly tunes performed at intervals by local band Underside Pattern.
But at two-and-a half-hours including intermission, an hour could easily have been sliced from the play, directed by recent Red Deer College theatre graduate Emily Pole, without anyone missing much.
For the plot line is very simple: Ferdinand, the King of Navarre, and his friends Berowne, Dumaine and Longaville (played here as college letter-men living in a ’50s frat house), take an oath to to devote themselves to three years of study and fasting.
No sooner do they temporarily turn their backs on women than four attractive females show up at their door.
The Princess of France (played here as the daughter of a financier who has business with Ferdinand) and her ladies, Rosaline, Maria and Katharine arrive — along with much put-upon attendant, Boyet.
As soon as the celibate college men get a gander of the comely, circle-skirted lasses, their hormones predictably rage — and the rest of the story plays out as a series of coy misunderstandings, mixed up identities and (just when you think things have to wrap up soon) a silly play-within-a-play.
Love’s Labour’s Lost’s language is flowery and dense, but this is essentially a Three’s Company episode written in 1590. Pole and her actors understand this, so astutely played up the buffoonery.
Among the many noteworthy performances were Dan Vasquez’s frat-boyish Ferdinand, Isiah Williams’ Berowne, Trysten Luck (Dumaine) and Stuart Old (Longaville). Also memorable were Sarah Spicer as the Princess of France, Tara Rorke (Rosaline), Naomi Esau (Maria), Brooke Dalton (Katharine), and Nate Rehman (Boyet).
Pole kept things moving apace — or as much as the wordy scenes would allow. But the mood could have been further lifted by using the Buddy Holly music as a soundtrack instead of as mostly between-scenes filler.
Love’s Labour’s Lost, which contains the longest word (honorificabilitudinitatibus) and the longest scene in all of Shakespeare’s plays, is worth checking out, as one of his earliest efforts. However, since it’s lesser known and contains few famous speeches, it would help to read a brief synopsis of scenes before heading out with your blanket, lawn chair and bug spray.
It runs at 7 p.m. on July 23, 27, 29 and 30, and at 2 p.m. on July 24 and 31. Admission is by donation ($20 suggested). This year, there’s also a beer garden at the site.