Review: ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost in Central Park’

Guest contributor Lindsay B. Davis falls in love with the latest Public Theater production in Central Park. 

Bryce Pinkham, Colin Donnell, and Lucas Near-Verbrugghe in The Public Theater's free Shakespeare in the Park production of "Love's Labour's Lost." (photo: Joan Marcus)
Bryce Pinkham, Colin Donnell, and Lucas Near-Verbrugghe in The Public Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park production of “Love’s Labour’s Lost.” (photo: Joan Marcus)

It is rare to go to the theater and experience having your brain stimulated and heart melted, but that is exactly what happened to me while watching The Public Theater’s Love’s Labour’s Lost at The Delacorte Theater. This musical mash up of the Bard’s romantic comedy with original pop-rock songs, contemporary dialogue, movie one-liners and the occasional Sonnet excerpt was devised by Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson’s dynamic duo, Michael Friedman (songs) and Alex Timbers (book adaptation/direction). Brought to life by an ensemble cast led by Daniel Breaker (Shrek) and Colin Donnell (Anything Goes), the collective charm, energy and talent do more than justice to Timber’s lively vision. I suspect this production, only the second musical adaptation of a Shakespeare play to emerge from The Public and premiere at the Delacorte since 1971, will rightly make the transfer to Broadway. Cue the celebratory big brass marching band!

The story begins with a challenge. Can King Ferdinand of Navarre and his three friends keep their self-imposed oath to swear off women (not to mention pot and their Xboxes) for three years to focus on philosophy and learning? This adaptation places the aristocratic men in 2008 at their five-year elite, liberal arts college reunion. “Young men,” they sing in the show’s opening number of the same name, “Are supposed to have sex…sleep in on Sunday for brunch. Don’t make me be 30 already.” (Fear of 30 being one of the many liberties taken in this interpretation of the source material. In the 16th century when this play was written, 30 years was actually the average life span.)

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