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The Annie Russell Labours in Love

Love is in the air, and the lords and ladies must labor long and hard to woo their counterparts before all is lost. This week marked the debut of William Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost on the Annie Russell stage. The show features the quest for love between a set of men and women.

The lords include Berowne (Brian Hatch ’12), King Ferdinand (Matt Striegel ’15), Longaville (Tuquan Smith ’13), and Dumaine (Peter Ruiz ’15); the ladies include Rosaline (Jaz Zepatos ’12), Princess of France (Kaitlyn Schirard ’12), Maria (Emily Steward ’14), and Katharine (Shannon Lynch ’12) with Boyet (Chelsea Swearingen ’12) as the ladies’ guide. This unique retelling of Shakespeare’s classic on the Annie Russell stage is set in the 1960s at Rollins College, making the play all the more exciting for the audience.

The opening begins with the men taking an oath to not let any woman in their sights for three years while they are studying. Berowne mocks this oath but signs and reminds the king of his coming entreaty with the Princess. Eventually the arrival of the ladies to the kings court causes quite a stir, for the king must honor his oath and house the ladies outside in a tent. Here, the audience can see some excellent scenic design, with the king gesturing and a large silk tent flying onto the stage. This tent will later grow after the intermission into a kaleidoscope of different colored silks consuming the entire stage. Associate Professor of Theatre and Director of the production Eric Zivot’s 1960s concept is a gentle addition to the show and gives it the spunk it needs to reach the modern Rollins audience.

At the same time the courtiers are courting, another set of actors conspires and eventually joins the fun. Don Adriano de Armado, convincingly played by Ryan Bathurst ’12, attempts to woo a common wench Jaquenetta (Stephanie Leone ’12) with his servant boy Moth (Anastasia Herbert ’14) and officer Dull (Matthew Hendry ‘15), but is in competition with the hilarious Costard (Ryan Lambert ’13). Another plot bubbles beneath the surface concerning the local schoolmaster Holofernia (Ricci Prioletti ’14), and the curate with a muddled southern accent, Nathaniel (Chris Sutter ’13).

After many entanglements between the lords and ladies, featuring hosts of letters sent back and forth, many times ending up in the wrong hands, a spectacular jaunt by the lords who unconvincingly disguise themselves as Russians and visit the ladies, and some eavesdropping on the part of the various lords, the cast ends up in a sidesplitting performance of an ancient play, The Nine Worthies.
Holofernia, Armado, Nathaniel, Moth and Costard try to perform the spectacle in vain as the nobles proceed to ridicule the performers. The mirthful action is cut short when Costard reveals that Jaquenetta is with child by Armado. Mercade, played by a different Rollins professor every night of the show, then delivers news of the death of the Princess’ father, bringing the merriment to a crashing end.

The play ends with the departure of the ladies from the lords with promises made to return to their loves after one year and a day’s time. A fantastic closing musical number highlights the vocal talents of the ladies, with Schirard’s soft bluesy voice rising above the rest, Zepatos’ notes coming out with the utmost clarity with the song being brought to center by Herbert’s vocals.

The acting performances on stage for this production were excellent! Annie veterans Schirard, Hatch and Zepatos gave a wonderful rousing performance for their departure show on stage. Swearingen seduces the audience with her beguiling performance of the sexually ambiguous Boyet, and Bathhurst enduces sidesplitting laughter with Armado’s every move!
First-year performers displayed excellent acting chops with Striegal and Steward easily taking the cake, demonstrating their sanguine mastery of Shakespeare’s archaic English. The audience revels in the scene where Holofernia and Nathaniel proceed to pontificate under the influence of what anyone can only guess are some pot brownies. The drunken antics of Armado and Dull merely add to the mirth. The couples are cast with ablomb all the way down to the quiet Ruiz and babyish Lynch. Hatch and Zepatos set off fireworks with their dagger eyes and longing gazes, Striegal and Schirard demonstrate their noble yet base attractions with scant a touched heart.

An excellent production overall that attempts to bring one of Shakespeare’s loftiest plays down to earth, the Annie Russell’s production of Love’s Labour’s Lost does the trick for hippies, intellectuals, and Rollins students alike.

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