The past month has been a little crazy, what with edits for Cold Run — release date of August 2!!, demands of the day job, fostering a 14-year-old Basset hound, and writing a series of articles for the military interest Web site Task & Purpose. I saw that another performance by the Sweet Tea Shakespeare Company, whose interpretation of Much Ado About Nothing I enjoyed so much, was imminent, so I headed over to the Poe House to check out their staging of Love’s Labour’s Lost.
I headed over with my camera and notebook, because two of the actors, Maria Forte (Huntress, Princess’ Attendant) and Nick Wilson (Longaville) had ties to Fort Bragg, and I saw the opportunity for a story. (My piece on the Fort Bragg museum curator who is acting in a local Shakespeare production was included in this week’s edition of the Bragg paper, The Paraglide.)
Upon arrival, I paid for my ticket and was handed a fan, upon which was printed the cast and crew list for the production, as well as the Company’s Web site, Facebook, Twitter and sponsors. They also included a flyer with a brief explanation of the play, some historical tidbits, and fun facts. Prior to the beginning of the show, the musical group “The Suspenders”, comprised of various cast members, played and sang to entertain the growing crowd. The late afternoon thundershowers had caused the production to temporarily move inside the social hall of the neighboring church, but the change of venue didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits.
The music ended, and there was a short comedy interlude before the cast segued right into the play. The premise of Love’s Labour’s Lost is that four noblemen, including the King of Navarre, pledge to spend three years together studying, living an ascetic lifestyle, and forswearing the company of women. Literally seconds after signing their oaths in a book, the princess of France arrives with her retinue, which conveniently contains three more beautiful noblewomen.
There is some flirting, some dancing, some hunting, and some masquerades where everyone one pretends to be someone else … the sorts of things that one finds in a Shakespeare comedy. Still, the end comes with a melancholy turn. The princess of France must return to mourn the death of her father. She and her ladies refuse to swear an oath of love and loyalty to the King and his noblemen, not for a year and a day, as they have already proven themselves to take their oaths lightly.
As always, the cast turned out excellent performances. James Merkle as the King of Navarre embodied a loud, commanding presence who leads his men from one adventure to the next. Tyler Pow turns in another excellent comedic turn as Berowne. Pow, who played Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, excels in these sorts of roles, serving as the foil to his friend, and the teasing flirt to Rosaline, played by Jessica Osnoe.
The great chemistry between the cast members continued with Nathan Pearce as the blustering, lusting Don Adriano de Armado, his compatriots Moth (Taylor Kraft) and Costard (Joey Narvaez), and Derek Smith as the literally dull-witted Sir Anthony Dull. Lofton Riser as Boyet did an excellent job shepherding the players, keeping an eye on things as they progressed, and serving as a go-between twixt the world of the nobles and the world of the Armado and his crowd.
Halfway through the performance, the sun came out — just as it was about to go down. The audience picked up their chairs and moved outside to enjoy the second half of the play in the backyard of the Poe House. The Company was debuting their new sound system, which was a marked improvement for the outdoor venue.
The play wrapped, as before, with a final song and choreography. Afterwards, cast members lingered to talk and mingle with the audience. There is nothing quite like intimate, outdoor summer theater, especially Shakespeare, and Sweet Tea pulls it off every time. I’m very much looking forward to next month’s Taming of the Shrew, July 16-20.
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But don’t take my word for it — check them out yourself. After all:
“Beauty is bought by judgment of the eye,
Not uttered by base sale of chapmen’s tongues. ”
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If interested in attending, volunteers get free tickets. Auditions are held regularly. For more information, you can go to their Web site to sign up as a volunteer or for the audition email list, or find them on Facebook or Twitter.