REVIEW: Maryland Shakespeare Festivals Love’s Labour’s Lost

This weekend the Maryland Shakespeare Festival put on another one of their experimental and absolutely unique Bare Bards. The actors performing in the play are providing their services for free. And show up from around the country simply for the training and a chance to help the producer in her research in Shakespeare studies.

A Bare Bard is: “Part of MSF’s performance research, Bare Bard is great theater with out the frills! Actors from across the country come to Frederick to tell timeless stories in our Elizabethan Play house.. costumes, fights, music… It’s all there BUT… like in Shakespeare’s day, there is NO director, No lights and very little rehearsal! It’s all in the language, and with just 1 day… This is where ‘whose line is it’ meets ‘To be or Not to Be’ “ – Becky Kemper

Pretty much, the actors show up on Friday knowing their lines, do a performance Saturday and Sunday, and that’s it, no more shows.

I’ve been to countless Bare Bard’s and have yet to be disappointed, and Sunday’s Love’s Labor’s Lost was no exception. The Play was held at the All Saints Episcopal Church in Frederick MD, where the hall was transformed into an Elizabethan theater for the day, with the stage area projected into the hall and people sitting on all 3 sides.  Actually “Stage Area” might be to limiting a term considering the entire hall is used by the actors, and the audience becomes part of the play. With the performers at times talking directly to the audience, sitting in the audience, or at one point a lovelorn actor groveling at the foot of an understanding audience member.

From the moment the play started, so did the laughter, and I knew this was going to be a good one. All the actors seem to glow with energy and enthusiasm, making it hard to believe they had only been together for 2 days by this point. In particular I’d like to point out a new comer to the “Bare Bards” Quinn Franzen in the role of Berowne, who stood out right from the beginning. He displayed a jovial sense of confidence and believability that connected with the audience immediately.We can only hope this will be only the first of many appearances with the MSF.

Another person that stood out was Yvonne Cone who played the comic roll of Moth, as she bounced and beamed her enthusiasm to all who caught her eye. I don’t know if  I’d seen her before, but she made a lasting impression and  seemed like she was having way to much fun out there.

Of course there’s all the rest of the cast that deserves great praise for the work they put in; if it seems like I’m gushing, it’s simply because I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. There were regular’s like John Bellamo as Don Armado who somehow was able to get one of the biggest laughs of the night simply by holding up a key (to a Honda mind you – Trust me you had to be there). or David Dowell as a very flamboyant, and very funny Boyet.

I do want to point out one more actress from Sundays performance, and that would be Shannon Parks who played Jaquenetta in this production. Whether playing Lady Macbeth, or a lowly Milk Maid she always displays an honesty in her roles that connects easily with the audiences. She can put a  twinkle in her eye and a warmth in her smile that will draw you in completely. Or in case of Lady Macbeth she’s able to take that twinkle and warmth, and turn it into frozen ice within the chilling turn of a page.

I had sat next to a very pleasant woman, who’s name I really wish I could remember, who had never seen Shakespeare outside of the larger venue hall’s. So it was a treat for me to experience the play through her eyes, and her laughter. She afterward told me she never knew Shakespeare could be this fun. All I can say is that Shakespeare did not write his plays to be viewed in a stoic museum setting, they were written for the the masses, standing in a mud pit, who paid a penny to see a play, and darn well expected to get their monies worth!

03/31/10: Addendum: I got an email from a very wonderful person I met at the play who reminded me:

you didn’t mention the actors threatening each other with silk shrubs, which had me in stitches.  ;-)

Yes’ A Honda key and 2 silk shrubs… You really really had to to be there to understand.

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2 Responses

  1. Hey jamie–glad you enjoyed the show. I share your thoughts about Quinn. I thought he stole the show! I can’t wait to see what he does next. I also invite Shakespeare enthusiasts to check out the plays performed b MSF’s Riotous Youth kids (ages 10-18). My son & niece have been members for 7 and 5 years respectively. What Becky Kemper & MSF has done for all of these children is absolutely remarkable! Their next performances will be the weekend of May 21st & 22nd. They will be doing “A Comedy of Errors.” This time around it will be directed by none other than the great Shannon Parks! These are Shakesperean actors in the making. They not only perform, but they understand the language that they are speaking. Truly incredible…Check it out if you can. Thanks

    • Yeah… The show was great. I have heard nothing but amazing things about the Riotous Youth and would encourage everyone to check them out.

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