Friday, July 21, 2017

Baltimore Shakespeare Factory’s ‘Love’s Labor’s Lost’

Written by  Frankie Kujawa
Baltimore Shakespeare Factory’s ‘Love’s Labor’s Lost’ credit: Will Kirk

The Bard’s most underappreciated classic?

The Baltimore Shakespeare Factory (BSF) brings the Bard’s comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost to audiences in Baltimore this month. Running from July 28th to August 20th, the story is set in the Kingdom of Navarre, where the current King Ferdinand has just decided to turn his court into “a little academe” and swear off all pleasures of the flesh to study for three years. However, a snag arrives in the form of the Princess of France, who is travelling to Navarre to convince the king to return the region of Aquitaine to her father, the king of France. What ensues thereafter is a tour-de-force that will leave audiences’ minds spinning.

Love’s Labour’s Lost stands out from Shakespeare’s canon as startlingly modern,” explained director Chris Cotterman. “Like an amphetamine-fueled Bob Dylan 370 years before the fact, Shakespeare delights in his command of the language and spins some of his most dizzyingly intricate and beautiful verse. Like an alchemist, he takes the leaden conventions of the era’s common comic form and transmutes it into something altogether different and precious.”

“It’s probably not appropriate to project modern philosophies onto a man who’s been dead for 400 years, but Shakespeare was clearly playing with ideas that were ahead of the times,” Cotterman adds. “I find it delightful, and I marvel that this play doesn’t get the same attention as some of his lesser works. In the princess, Shakespeare gives us a woman who is at least as capable as her male counterparts, and who is continually objectified by those men around her.”

For actress Erin Haratty, who plays the role of princess of France, this production will mark her debut performing at BSF. “This is actually my first Shakespeare production in general, not just with this company,” Hanratty explained. “The most intimidating thing was the text work. I wanted to make sure I was getting it all right and understanding everything. A big part of what BSF does is they do a lot of text homework before you even show up for the first rehearsal.” Hanratty went on to explain the dissection of Shakespeare’s language was very “labour”- intensive, but the result yielded deeper meaning of her character. “It was extremely helpful to have my character fleshed-out. So, once we came to rehearsal, we felt that the hard work was already done and we felt we could work on the movement and the character interaction of the piece.”

In contrast, BSF alumnus Utkarsh Rajawat has found that the performance aspect was something that he intentionally developed for this piece. “I play one of the king’s ‘posse’ members – one of the lords. He’s a very ‘wordy’ and not necessarily the funniest character, even though this is a comedy. For me, I’ve worked on trying to keep the character engaging and being open to finding humor in stuff that isn’t necessarily inherently laugh-out-loud.”

Both performers thoroughly enjoy working with the talented staff and cast at Baltimore Shakespeare Factory. As Rajawat explained, “It’s very inspiring because BSF tends to get a lot of very cool, dedicated talented actors and it’s very inspiring.”

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