A version of this story appears in Wednesday’s Life section of The Oklahoman.
Reduxion Theatre revisits lesser-known Shakespeare with “Love’s Labour’s Lost”
The company will perform an updated version of The Bard’s romantic comedy through March 2 at its Broadway Theater before taking the production on a tour of the Metropolitan Library System.
For Erin Woods, bringing one of William Shakespeare’s lesser-known romantic comedies to the Oklahoma City stage has been a labor of love.
Through March 2, Reduxion Theatre Company is performing an updated version of The Bard’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost” at its Broadway Theater, 1613 N Broadway Ave.
“It’s something that I fell in love with as a child because I just thought it was adorable. You swear off women, and then four perfect women show up at your doorstep. And that’s just how it goes,” said Woods, Reduxion’s managing director, with a laugh.
“It’s actually the first full-length Shakespeare play I ever saw as a child … as a live performance. And I loved it. I just thought it was the greatest thing in the whole world, but then I just also fell in love with Shakespeare in general. And that’s one thing that’s sort of vexed me for years is like why isn’t ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ as popular as, say, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ or ‘Much Ado About Nothing.’ I mean, it’s charming. It’s got this interesting love story that has this real revolutionary ending.”
In the story, young King Ferdinand of Navarre (Sam Bearer) convinces three of his noble lords — Dumaine (Jeff Burleson), Longaville (Ian Clinton) and the reluctant Berowne (Mitchell Reid) — to join him in signing an oath to pursue scholarship and eschew women for three years. Naturally, The ink is no sooner dry than the strong-willed Princess of France (Claire Powers) and her three noble ladies — Katherine (Catherine Pitt), Maria (Susan Riley) and sharp-tongued Rosaline (Holly McNatt) — arrive for a diplomatic visit and the men find themselves falling comically in love.
“That’s one of the joys about this show: Four guys as soon as they swear off women, four women show up. It’s just a fun time,” Burleson said with a laugh.
The production opened the week before Valentine’s Day, and throughout the run, Reduxion is offering a romantic couple’s package that includes champagne and cupcakes
“If we put it in the Valentine’s Day slot, (we knew) people would be more apt to just check it out if they’re not familiar with it because we’ve had this reputation going on for about three or four years of doing a love story in that slot. It’s real easy to sell tickets to ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ but when you’re doing something that not everyone is heard of it, we want to make sure people have every reason to go to the show,” said Woods, who is directing the production.
“It is very fun for us to tackle a show that’s not often seen. I wish ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ was seen as often as ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ I think that would be fabulous. But that’s just not the case.”
Reduxion is known for putting fresh twists on classic plays, and Woods set “Love’s Labour’s Lost” in 1953 Spain. The location was a natural fit because the Kingdom of Navarre is now part of northern Spain. Likewise, she selected a year with plenty of royal meaning: 1953 was the year of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, John F. Kennedy’s marriage to Jacqueline Bouvier and Audrey Hepburn’s breakout playing a princess in “Roman Holiday.”
“You think of it as this really old-fashioned time, but it’s actually really progressive in terms of like arts and design. There’s a lot of really great things happening in that sort of early mid-century mark,” Woods said. “It’s a lot more than just the beginning of rock ‘n’ roll and the beginning of poodle skirts. It’s got a lot more meat to it. It seemed really apt for the show … about new young royals.”
The production’s musical numbers also date to 1953 and include a French rendition of Oklahoma music icon Patti Page’s ditty “(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window” and a playfully sexed-up cover of The Four Lads’ “Istanbul (Not Constantinople).” The latter was hard to get through in rehearsals without the cast cracking up, since Woods kept demanding the actors incorporate more male stripper moves.
“We built that ourselves out of scratch. She said ‘I want some dancing stuff here,’ and we just got worse and worse and worse,” Burleson said wryly.
Although Reduxion’s production is set in 1953, it maintains The Bard’s original language with all its cerebral jokes, elaborate insults and flowery declarations of love.
“We wanted to keep all the language ‘cause we just loved it. … I don’t feel like I can take any more liberties with it as I would with a very popular show,” Woods said. “I did concern myself with making the show very accessible, which is probably where all the zaniness comes from. Because I wanted to make sure that what I think Shakespeare was doing with the language, which was a bunch of zany craziness, translated onstage.”
In fact, the production bears a strong resemblance to a popular cinematic genre of the mid-20th century: the screwball comedy.
“I think that’s what’s so cute about this. It’s not a play that’s going to change the world and make you think about world hunger and that sort of thing. It’s got a very broad let’s-have-fun mentality to it,” Burleson said. “You know, some people get scared by Shakespeare … but it’s a very easy story to follow and to really have fun with. I think that’s why it’s a good choice to take on the library tour.”
Reduxion will give free performances of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” at 1 p.m. Saturdays March 2-April 13 at different Metropolitan Library System locations. It is the company’s third year to take a show to the libraries.
“It’s such a casual come-and-go kind of environment that we try to cultivate because the whole point of the library shows is accessibility: accessible because it’s free, accessible because it’s a Saturday afternoon at your local library,” Woods said.
“We want people to be able to see Shakespeare and be able to experience the joy of it.”
Reduxion Theatre’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost”
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and Feb. 28-March 2 and 2 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Reduxion’s Broadway Theater, 1613 N Broadway Ave.
Tickets: $18 for adults and $15 for students, seniors and military with proper ID. A couple’s package including two glasses of champagne and two gourmet cupcakes is available for an additional $14.
Information: 651-3191 or www.reduxiontheatre.com.
“Love’s Labour’s Lost” Library Tour
When: 1 p.m. Saturdays March 2-April 13.
Where: Various Metropolitan Library System locations.
Information: Go to www.mls.lib.ok.us and click on “Calendar.”