Robert Faires' imaginative staging of Love's Labor's Lost takes place at the Sheffield Hillside Theatre in Zilker Park, literally a stone's throw away from Barton Springs pool. Spectators spread out blankets or set up lawn chairs in the sloped meadow above the playing area and settle in for the pleasures of free entertainment for a Texas evening in May.
Love's Labor's Lost is one of Shakespeare's earliest comedies and not one of the world's favorites. The language is rich and strange, certainly to a contemporary ear, with lots of quibbles, puns, and references that might have knocked 'em over back in the late 1500's but today come across as dense and obscure.
The concept seemed to be a stretch. How were director Faires and that energetic young cast going to fit the King of Navarre, the Princess of France, fantastical Spaniard Don Adriano de Armado and sundry counselors and ladies in waiting into an Annette Funicello-Frankie Avalon 1963 beach blanket bingo world?
Having made his reputation with the histories of Henry VI and Richard III, Shakespeare was drawing on events of recent history for this lighthearted comedy. He was parodying Henri of Navarre, a contemporary and an English ally in the religious wars until Henri abruptly converted to Catholicism in 1593, shortly before Shakespeare wrote this piece. Henri was reported to be of an intellectual turn of mind and he had received visits from a French princess and the French queen, celebrated with festivities and entertainments. References to other current topics and events are frequent. Shakespeare's characters both noble and common obsess with words and elaborate wordplay.