Review: Love’s Labour’s Lost (Invictus Theatre)

| November 11, 2018

Martin Diaz-Valdez and Rae Hamilton-Vargo star in Love's Labour's Lost, Invictus Theatre    



Love’s Labour’s Lost

Written by William Shakespeare
at The Frontier, 1106 W. Thorndale (map)
thru Nov 18  |  tix: $20  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   


Funny and sweet, but a bit over the top


Amber Cartwright, Katherine Duffy, Rachael Soglin and Raina Lynn star in Love's Labour's Lost, Invictus Theatre

Invictus Theatre Company presents
Love’s Labour’s Lost

Review by Lauren Emily Whalen

As a play, Love’s Labour’s Lost is simply delightful. In many ways it’s a classic romantic comedy: boys swear off girls, the girls show up anyway, wacky misunderstandings ensue. Though Shakespeare’s early comedy ends on a sad note, as a whole it’s light and sweet, full of snappy wordplay and fun roles that aren’t all straight cis men. After debuting their company with last year’s Othello, Invictus Theatre does an about-face in an equally intimate space. This Love stays true to the Bard’s silliness and romance, but even though the story lends itself to over-the-top antics, director Dylan S. Roberts could have Charles Askenaizer stars in Love's Labour's Lost, Invictus Theatresignificantly scaled back.

Roberts is a company member with Midsommer Flight, known for their free outdoor summer Shakespeare in parks throughout Chicago, as well as their yearly holiday Twelfth Night. Midsommer Flight tends to attract a more family-oriented crowd as well as fans of the Bard, whereas Invictus productions run indoors when there’s a nip in the air, and tickets definitely aren’t free. Staging a play in a park as opposed to in a studio theater is a very different endeavor, and if Roberts had kept this in mind, Love’s first act would have been just as funny and much less grating.

Love’s Labour’s Lost opens with Ferdinand, the young King of Navarre (Chad Bay), and his three friends publicly swearing off women in order to concentrate on their studies. When Ferdinand is addressing his subjects, his loud voice and big mannerisms are justified – what’s mysterious is when he keeps up the volume and gesturing when speaking privately to his compatriots. This type of exaggerated delivery continues throughout the play’s first half, and some actors are worse offenders than others. (For example, though he is playing the fool, Johnny Kalita’s Costard practically screams all of his dialogue.) However, the cast isn’t to blame here: Roberts appears to have staged this production for a venue much larger than The Frontier, essentially a black box, where the smallest gesture and quietest syllable don’t go unnoticed.

Thankfully, Roberts calms down in the second act, letting his 99-percent formidable cast relax into their characters and say their lines at a normal volume. The play’s last moments are particularly beautiful, when the four men’s journey from party bros to mature adults capable of loving is on heartbreaking display. Up to this point, Stefanie M. Senior’s sound design has been the pleasant stage equivalent of the Love Actually soundtrack (minus the Christmas music) but as Love’s last line is uttered, the soundtrack grows melancholy and the effect is haunting and lovely.

Jack Morsovillo, Alisha Fabbi, Martin Diaz-Valdes and Rae Hamilton-Vargo star in Love's Labour's Lost, InvictusCharles Askenaizer, Taylor Glowac, Chad Bay and Samual Cheeseman in Love's Labour's Lost, Invictus Theatre Johnny Kalita stars in Love's Labour's Lost, Invictus TheatreKatherine Duffy, Raina Lynn, Amber Cartwright and Rachael Soglin star in Love's Labour's Lost, Invictus Theatre

Kalita aside, this Love has a gifted ensemble, quick with impeccable comic timing and skilled at Bard-y banter. Invictus ensemble member Joseph Beal shines as the ladies’ Man Friday, Boyet, snapping his fingers and firing off quips in a natty striped suit. Fresh off her role in Pride Films and Plays’ Holding the Man, Alisha Fabbi is a genuinely hilarious Holofernes, waxing poetic about God and staging flashy Biblical pageants to the royals’ amusement, and bemusement. Raina Lynn is a charismatic and intelligent Princess of France, and Rachael Soglin is magnetic from beginning to end as the watchful, self-protective lady-in-waiting Rosaline.

Invictus’ Love’s Labour’s Lost is absolutely enjoyable, well-acted and poignant. If Roberts had let go of the directing reins just a bit more, Invictus’ sophomore production could have been a stunner. Besides staging the show for a larger or perhaps al fresco venue, the director doesn’t seem to trust that the audience will understand that Love is a comedy. Trust me – it’s funny. We get it.

Rating: ★★★

Love’s Labour’s Lost continues through November 18th at The Frontier, 1106 W. Thorndale (map), with performances Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays 3pm.  Tickets are $20 (students: $10), and are available online through (check for availability of half-price tickets). More information at time: 2 hours 30 minutes, includes an intermission)

Taylor Glowac, Samual Cheeseman, Charles Askenaizer and Chad Bay star in Love's Labour's Lost, Invictus Theatre

Photos by Brian McConkey Photography




Martin Diaz-Valdes (Don Armado), Rae Hamilton-Vargo (Moth), Johnny Kalita (Costard), Daniela Martinez (Jaquenetta), Chad Bay (Ferdinand), Charles Askenaizer (Berowne), Taylor Glowac (Longaville), Sam Cheeseman (Dumain), Raina Lynn (Princess), Rachael Soglin (Rosaline), Amber Cartwright (Katherine), Katherine Duffy (Maria), Joseph Beal (Boyet), Jack Morsovillo (Nathaniel), Alisha Fabbi (Holofernes), Steven Hermez (Dull)

Understudies: Shane Richlen, Erik Schiller, Madeline Pell, Emily Riggs, Julia Badger, Joe Sergio

behind the scenes

Dylan S. Roberts (director), Morgan Massaro (assistant director), Kevin Rolfs (scenic and properties design), Becs Bartle (lighting design), Satoe Schechner (costume design), Stefanie M. Senior (sound design), Paulette Hicks (text coach), Camille Oswald (stage manager), Brian McConkey Photography (photos)

Jack Morsovillo, Alisha Fabbi, Daniela Martinez and Johnny Kalita star in Love's Labour's Lost, Invictus TheatreMartin Diaz-Valdez and Rae Hamilton-Vargo star in Love's Labour's Lost, Invictus TheatreRaina Lynn, Amber Cartwright, Katherine Duffy, Joseph Beal and Rachael Soglin star in Love's Labour's LostTaylor Glowac, Charles Askenaizer, Samual Cheeseman and Chad Bay star in Love's Labour's Lost, Invictus Theatre


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: 2018 Reviews, Comedy, Invictus Theatre, Lauren Emily Whalen, The Frontier, William Shakespeare

Comments (0)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

There are no comments yet. Why not be the first to speak your mind.

Comments are closed.