"LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST," Utah Shakespeare Festival, through Aug. 31; 800-752-9849 or www.bard.org
CEDAR CITY — Ferdinand, king of Navarre, decides that he and his men should focus on their studies — and nothing else — for three years. He draws a decree renouncing the company of women.
And so begins Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” one of the Bard’s works being produced at this year’s Utah Shakespeare Festival as part of its complete-the-canon-project; a festival goal to complete all 38 of Shakespeare’s works by 2023.
The decree drawn by Ferdinand raises the eyebrows of his men, especially Berowne, played with perfect traces of sarcasm and wit by Matt Mueller.
With great reluctance, Berowne signs the oath along with the rest of the men. Then, as you might expect, the princess of France arrives on state business with her bevy of beauties. This is where things get interesting. The men agree to discard the oath and pursue their affections with abandon — even posing as Muscovites at one point.
The USF production is bright and light on its feet — and tongue. Considered one of Shakespeare’s “lyrical plays,” director Laura Gordon notes, “The use of language is almost an Olympic event — a pentathlon of rhyme, sonnet, blank verse, prose and puns.”
The USF cast is up to the challenge. The jocularity among the men is genuine and natural, as is the jesting by their female counterparts. The ensemble piece is solid with standout performances by Mueller, Melissa Graves (Princess of France), Melinda Pfundstein (Rosaline), Matt Zambrano (fantastical Spaniard), Chris Klopatek (Costard) and Quinn Mattfeld (Ferdinand).
The finishing touches on the lovely romance are in Rachel Laritz’s costumes, along with Robert Mark Morgan’s set and Donna Ruzika’s lighting.
The simplicity of the set and costumes allows for the audience to relax a bit into the nuance of the beautiful language and perhaps allow a moment to ponder the fine art of wooing one’s love.