Loading...
A Singer's Notes by Keith Kibler

A Singer’s Notes 75: Love’s Labour’s Lost

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Nafeesa Monroe (Rosaline), Mark Bedard (Berowne) in Love's Labour's Lost with Shakespeare and Company. Photo by Kevin Sprague.
Nafeesa Monroe (Rosaline), Mark Bedard (Berowne) in Love’s Labour’s Lost with Shakespeare and Company. Photo by Kevin Sprague.

We post-moderns know there are no real characters, right? A Falstaff is just a bunch of words, marks on a page. When the play is over, so is he. But is this true? Thinking that way absolves us of all risk when we enter the theater. Just a fiction, such stuff as dreams are made on, and the word is the only reality. Love’s Labour’s Lost is basically a battle between what we might call word and what we might call reality. It is entirely unclear at the end of the play which combatant has won. In page after page, scene after scene, words rule. We hang onto the plot line in desperation. The play is essentially a bunch of word games. But there is a catch, and his name is Berowne, wonderfully played by Mark Bedard in Shakespeare and Company’s new production. Berowne rejects Shakespeare’s need to show the university wits that he can best them, something he did splendidly in his “Rape of Lucrece” or “Venus and Adonis.” Berowne stands against the chatter and speaks for the reality of the word, the power of the word. And above all, the necessity that the word comes from the heart. Another thing Berowne represents is risk. Since the essence of the play is wordplay, speaking real is the ultimate risk, both for the playwright, and the actor. Not only does Shakespeare send up his fellow wits in the person of Berowne, he makes their whole method a thing of nought. Very like Orpheus, his agon is to come close to silence, guiding his own Euridice out of Hades. As Beethoven wrote, “from the heart, may it go to the heart.” In a wildly verbal play, the real struggle to speak directly and play no games. His success is uncertain. The title, after all, is Love’s Labour’s Lost.

The production gained in coherence and fluency as it went along. There were excellent performances by Brooke Parks as the Princess with her beautiful voice, and two young actresses, Kelly Galvin and Kate Abbruzzese, who said their few lines, after long waits, with clarity and naturalness. This is not easy. Michael F. Toomey was excellently funny without becoming a caricature. Still, I got the impression that the show needed a few more performances to really roll. Early Shakespeare is deliberately excessive, and decisions need to be made as to how to take me to the next scene. This seemed like it had been done in part, but not completely. Mark Bedard’s Berowne shows the way. The answer is not excessive speed; it is something I can only call “shape.” A kind of moving shape that leads on. Mr. Bedard made an eloquent demonstration of how this kind of language must be believed in, must be made to work. Artifice is also art.

Keith Kibler

About Keith Kibler

Twice a Fellow of the Tanglewood Music Center, Keith Kibler’s doctorate was earned at Yale University and the Eastman School of Music. He is one of the region’s most sought after teachers with students accepted at the New England Conservatory, the Juilliard School, Peabody and Hartt Conservatories, the Tanglewood Institute, and the Aspen Music School. Keith Kibler is an adjunct teacher of singing at Williams College.

A tip for our readers: How to get the most out of New York Arts and The Berkshire Review for the Arts.
What if I hate reading on computer screens, even tablets?
We get occasional inquiries from readers about whether we plan to launch a print edition of our arts journals. The answer is that we've given it some thought, and we're still thinking about it.
It is not only our older readers who object to reading them online. There are even some millennials who would rather read from paper. One of our readers got the simple idea of using the sites as sophisticated tables of contents. She prints out each article on three-hole paper and files them in a loose-leaf album. I've devoted a lot of time to finding the very best print and pdf facility there is. Just click on one of the icons at the top right of the article and print!
Click here to make your tax-deductible donation to The Arts Press, publisher of New York Arts and The Berkshire Review. Or click on the notice in the sidebar. The Arts Press is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of The Arts Press must be made payable to“Fractured Atlas” only and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.