by William Shakespeare
Directed by Karin Coonrod
A Public Theatre Lab Production
in the Anspacher Space

Reviewed by David Spencer

The most meaningful part of Karin Coonrod’s new “lab” staging of Shakespeare’s early comedy Love’s Labor’s Lost appeared not onstage, but in the audience, where a girl not older than 10 and likely younger, sat enraptured, laughing and enchanted, periodically looking up at her mom’s face to share the moment. The production, which is presented straight through in a two-hour blast with no intermission, held her attention all the way through.

               I think this is significant because I personally was not nearly so taken with it, primarily because much of the title’s “labor” infuses the production’s comedy; Ms. Coonrod is not as humor-challenged as some directors who default to a combination of higher decibel level with near-calisthenic physical business in the mistaken impression that goofy behavior automatically equals funny—she has a lighter touch than Julie Taymor (but then, so does The Incredible Hulk)—but you never lose the sense of actors at work. At least I didn’t.

               But I hasten to mention, a lot of what I was seeing did seem to be in the nature of active and ongoing experimentation—which is what the Public theatre lab series (now in its 5th season) is all about, which is also why production values are minimal and the ticket price is a “mere” fifteen bucks. And the audience was clearly on board, seeming to take it in the intended context. And that little girl’s animated, involved face was positively glowing. So as far as I’m concerned, if Ms. Coonrod’s LLL has done nothing but make one child desire the magic of theatre for the rest of her life, damn the flaws and praise the lab, that’s all the validation required. This time, anyway…

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