Regional Reviews: San Diego
Also see David's review of Titanic
From the alliterative title, one can assume that Shakespeare's object is to delight with rhetoric, and his language use proves to be much more entertaining than the story he invents. Ferdinand, the young King of Navarre (Jonny Orsini), has gathered three compatriots to devote themselves to contemplation and study. All of them sign a pledge to do so for three years' time, even though some have their doubts about the commitment.
Of course, as soon as they make this vow, the Princess of France (Kristen Connolly) and her entourage appear. The King immediately goes gaga for the Princess, and each member of the respective entourages finds a counterpart in the other entourage with whom to become smitten. Courtship ensues, with both sides observing niceties and playing games.
Meanwhile, a group of academics led by Holofernes (Stephen Spinella) plan a tableau presentation of the Nine Worthiesheroes from Pagan, Jewish, and Christian traditions. The tableau is under-rehearsed, however, and goes wrong in the sorts of wonderfully odd ways that only a group of academics could conjure.
Because the language can be flowery, the characters who speak more plainly and directly tend to stand out. Those include Boyet (Kevin Cahoon), the Princess's only male attendant, and the wooing couple Berowne (Kieran Campion) and Rosaline (Pascale Armand). Fools, such as Don Adriano de Armado (Triney Sandoval) are identified by language that tries too hard to be clever.
Broadway director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall stages her first non-musical Shakespeare play here, and she turns it into a romp for the large cast. The Globe's outdoor space works best with a single unit set, and John Lee Beatty has designed a beauty featuring greenery, a set of stairs topped by a huge gate, and an ornate statue depicting Venus and Cupid. Ms. Marshall composes lovely stage pictures, enhances them with movements that sometimes border on choreography and gives each of her principal performers multiple chances to shinetogether as well as individually, including a disastrous take on Russian male dancers that is set to The Nutcracker.
Michael Krass's costumes are as lush as they need to be, and Jason Lyons' lighting provides depth to the various scenes. Sten Severson's sound design is crystal clear, and Peter Golub's original music is as romantic as Ms. Marshall's concept for the production.
Because of how the rhetoric is structured, audiences do need to do some mental work to enjoy this show. But the effort's worth it, and August and September San Diego evenings in the park make even some extra effort worthwhile.
Performs nightly except Mondays through September 18, 2016, in the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, part of the Old Globe's Balboa Park campus. Performances through Labor Day begin at 8pm; starting September 6, performance start times become variable. Call (619) 234-5623 or visit www.theoldglobe.org for tickets.
The cast includes Pascale Armand (Rosaline), Kevin Cahoon (Boyet), Kieran Campion (Berowne), Kristen Connolly (Princess of France), Greg Hildreth (Costard), Patrick Kerr (Sir Nathaniel), Jonny Orsini (Ferdinand, King of Navarre), Triney Sandoval (Don Adriano De Armado), and Stephen Spinella (Holofernes), with M.F.A. actors Amara James Aja (Dumaine), Amy Blackman (Maria), Ally Carey (Ensemble), Ajinkya Desai (Lord), Talley Beth Gale (Katherine), Kevin Hafso-Koppman (Forester), Lorenzo Landini (Marcadé), Jake Millgard (Dull), Makha Mthembu (Jaquenetta), Christina A. Okolo (Ensemble), Suzelle Palacios (Ensemble), Daniel Petzold (Moth), Nathan Whitmer (Longaville).