LLL

William Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost” runs through Oct. 10 at the mini Greek amphitheater outside the Fine Arts building and stars UA Department of Theatre students.

Live theater has made its return to the UA campus with William Shakespeare’s comedy “Love’s Labour’s Lost.” In the face of mask mandates and bad weather, the Department of Theatre has chosen the perfect comedy to bring students back into the warm embrace of the dramatic arts.

The production is being staged outdoors at the mini Greek amphitheater at the Fine Arts Center, with masks required for performers but not for audience members.

“Love’s Labour’s Lost” is one of William Shakespeare’s earlier comedies, focusing on the king of Navarre and his young companions Berowne, Dumaine and Longaville, who agree to spend three years studying, fasting and shirking women. The King goes so far as to decree that no woman may come within a mile of his court.

This resolve is soon abandoned when the Princess of France and her three ladies-in-waiting arrive at the king's court.

On opening night, the actors skillfully incorporated modern humor into the centuries-old classic, an impressive feat considering that for many of the students, it is their first time acting in a Shakespearean play, according to a press release.

Despite the complexity of the Old English script, each of the actors put their own modern spin on their characters, elevating the comedy to a new level. With mustaches taped to face masks and dramatized yet modernized love letters, humorous and relatable gags abounded.

Jordan Williams, a second-year MFA acting student playing Berowne, was a standout. He made his romantic monologues funny and easy to listen to, and expertly interacted with audience members in the front rows. And Leah Christenson, a junior, portrayed the snarky page Moth in a way that brought comedic relief while maintaining an air of professionalism in her character's interactions with the other performers.

The play was pushed back because of rain, but ultimately went on later in the night. Despite the rain throughout the evening, the actors went on as if nothing was wrong, and the weather even added humor to the various thunder sound effects used during the show.

The in-the-round seating gives the outdoor production a more intimate feel, because the actors can interact with the audience during various scenes and monologues. It is a versatile setup, allowing for interesting entrances and exits and making the audience feel more involved.

The performance was a visually engaging one. Making creative use of their environment, the actors used the staging to their advantage and added comedic value. Actors hid behind bushes or skinny stacks of books, dramatically leaning onto the railing or even climbing between the decorative columns.

The smaller details nestled within the background of the main story also held a lot of charm. While the main characters and their arcs are captivating, the more minor characters are also very likeable, and following their stories added to my enjoyment of the show.

“Love’s Labour’s Lost,” sets a promising tone for the rest of the year’s Department of Theatre productions. The show is full of sharp wit, hearty laughs and a clever modernization of Shakespeare that makes the plot more relatable and the production much more charming.

“Love’s Labour’s Lost” runs through Oct. 10, and tickets are free, but need to be reserved online.

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