A cheerfully cheesy banner above the stage of the Delacorte Theater sets the tone for the Public Theater’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost.”
“Welcome Back Class of 2008! -- Windsor Apartments & Resort.”
To our left is an A-frame dormitory; to the right is a bar-and-grill, all in mock-Tudor style -- mock being the operative word in this high-spirited, dumbed-down musical adaptation of a Shakespeare comedy that doesn’t actually need much outsider help being funny.
It is, after all, the story of a young bachelor king who induces his three affable cronies to join him in three years of sexual abstinence and scholarly study at just the moment a comely princess and her croniettes arrive to wreak havoc on their plans.
Spicing up the action is a heated fool lusting for the barmaid and a pair of Latin-spouting academics ripe for deconstructing.
Songwriter Michael Friedman and director/adapter Alex Timbers (the team behind the outrageous “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”) have shrink-wrapped and accessorized the show with 19 songs that variously prick “Rich People,” go girl group (“Hey Boys”), nod to cynics (“Love’s a Gun”) and tip a glittering top hat to “A Chorus Line” with a riff on that hit show’s big number, “One.”
The women are boozy party girls out for a good time. There’s some rapping, of course, and an odd ode to cats that takes an unappetizing turn. A security guard tools about on a Segway and Jennifer Moeller’s costumes interweave several centuries of style.
It’s lotsa fun and Daniel Breaker and Patti Murin have charm to spare as King and Princess; so does Maria Thayer as her chief foil, Rosaline. Is there an original idea in these hundred minutes of horsing around? No.
Through Aug. 18 at the Delacorte Theater, Central Park. Admission is free. Information: +1-212-967-7555; http://www.shakespeareinthepark.org. Rating: ***
Chad Beguelin’s “Harbor,” at off-Broadway’s Primary Stages, is a completely awful play about a married gay couple whose picture-postcard life in Sag Harbor, on Long Island’s East End, is disrupted by the unexpected arrival of a sister and her teenage daughter.
Erin Cummings is Donna, the boorish sister of Kevin (Randy Harrison), a would-be writer who is little more than the kept man of Paul Anthony Stewart’s Ted, a successful architect. The last right angle in this quartet is Donna’s daughter Lottie (Alexis Molnar), a wise child who’s pretty darn tired of living out of a minivan.
Kevin and Ted are J. Crew. Donna is K-Mart, the politically incorrect “poor white Christmas trash” Kevin wishes would disappear.
Nothing about “Harbor” is plausible, especially the plot twist that sets off an unexpected realignment of loyalties. Mark Lamos, typically a sensitive director, wastes his energy and our time.
Through Sept. 8 at Primary Stages, 59 E. 59th St. Information: +1-212-840-9705; http://www.primarystages.org. Rating: *
What the Stars Mean: ***** Fantastic **** Excellent *** Good ** So-So * Poor (No stars) Avoid
(Jeremy Gerard is the chief U.S. drama critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
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