Director Dean Hess has slipped the junior Romeos and whipper-snapper Juliets of Shakespeare's "Love's Labours Lost" into a '30s milieu of Ivy League dandyism and carefree flirtation. The result, at Cal State Fullerton, is a pleasing production, with a winning look and a grinning (not smirking) style.
One of the first things you notice is how well-spoken the cast is. This is no tiny feat: Student actors often rush Shakespeare and, more often than not, seem a little unsure about what all those funny words they're speeding through actually mean. Hess' well-rehearsed cast approaches the giddy wordplay with confidence.
The story--in which austerity collides with lust--is one of Shakespeare's breeziest. At the urging of the King of Navarre (Thomas C. Sunstrom), three young lords (Brett Shuemaker, Paul R. Nussbaum and Kent Toussaint) agree to give up worldly joys, including fetching women.
Soon after their vow, the Princess of France (Debbie Korkunis) arrives with three lovely ladies (Helen Ann Whatley, Lisa R. Wilson and Kelly Shea), the boys spy the girls, flesh proves weak, and classy high jinks ensue.
There's a nice, teasing flow between Shuemaker, Nussbaum and Toussaint and Whatley, Wilson and Shea, but they're not the only ones who lend this show its amiability. Andrew Shoffner as the flagrant Don Adriano de Armado and Jim Gray as the clownish Costard may be cartoonish, but they liven up Shakespeare's comedy.
Richard Berentsen has created a graceful set that evokes the picnic scenes from "Brideshead Revisited," or Harvard/Yale sculling competitions. Abel Zeballos also should be commended, for the excellent costumes. They're as airy and fresh as the people who wear them.
'Love's Labours Lost'
A Cal State Fullerton production of the comedy by William Shakespeare. Directed by Dean Hess. With Thomas C. Sunstrom, Brett Shuemaker, Paul R. Nussbaum, Kent Toussaint, Michael Polak, Andrew Shoffner, Thomas M. Nealeigh, Hugh Scott Wilson, Gregory Beirne, Howard Johnston, Debbie Korkunis, Helen Ann Whatley, Lisa R. Wilson, Kelly Shea, Crissy Guerrero, C.C. Norlund. Set by Richard Berentsen. Lighting by Adrian Dickey. Costumes and makeup by Abel Zeballos. Sound by Donald Peterson Jr. Continues evenings through Saturday at 8, with a 2:30 p.m. show Saturday and a 5 p.m. performance Sunday, at the campus Recital Hall, 800 N. State College Blvd., Fullerton. Tickets: $5 to $8. (714) 773-3371.