Photo | Sydney Bradshaw (Courtesy of TCDS)
Trinity College Drama Society’s production of Love’s Labour’s Lost, directed by Nicole Bell, was a cute start to this season of campus theatre. The musical was adapted by Alex Timbers from Shakespeare’s play of the same name, with songs written by Michael Friedman. Despite the strong cast, the production did not provide the opportunity for them to perform at their best. The overall direction and design of the production was full of wasted opportunities, with childish elements that didn’t seem intentional, from the awkward jokes to the audience interaction.
Every year TCDS does a “Shakespeare in the Quad” show mirroring “Shakespeare in the Park,” put on in High Park during the summer by Canadian Stage. Producing Love’s Labour’s Lost as a quad show is a great idea, considering the musical is about a college reunion and the setting would be a college quad. Unfortunately, this production did not utilize the potential of the space. Other than the audience having to sit on benches and stools, or even on the ground, this show could have been performed anywhere else. Most of the quad space was not used, with the stage occupying approximately a quarter of the area, and was ignored by the performers. Each performer seemed to have a different idea of when they could drop character when they were walking off stage. This made it hard for the audience to really believe in the world of the play because there was no consistency. This issue could have been solved simply by using the entire space as the stage, so that the actors would need to walk out of the quad to really be “off-stage.”
The show also featured a pre-show—another wasted opportunity. Actors Nam Nguyen and Sophie Waldman should be commended for their work during the pre-show as it must have been quite difficult, but they sounded fantastic on their duet. They were tasked with audience engagement, asking why they didn’t have masks for the masquerade, yet nothing about the environment led the audience to believe that they should have masks, or that they were even at a reunion of some sort. It would have been much stronger if the audience were sitting at banquet tables watching a slide show of the characters going through their college days or if the audience were handed masquerade masks to really feel immersed in the world of the play.
In terms of audience interaction, there were a few instances of it, but it was quite inconsistent. It varied from being directly spoken to during the pre-show, to being vaguely gestured to, to being pulled up on stage to sit down and watch a character sing to the audience. This discrepancy produced confusion. At times the audience felt somewhat like characters in the show, but at other points were pulled back out with the reminder that a fourth wall does exist.
Adding to the confusion, the play features many characters and the plot relies on the audience believing in the crazy web of relationships that the characters find themselves in. The show ended up being quite disorienting because it was hard to figure out who was “in love” with who. I couldn’t figure it out until the end of the play, which is not a good sign. The clarity of the relationships is something that should be easily worked out for the audience as this is what the show is all about.
Though there were issues in the direction and production design of the show, the highlights were the performances. Everyone in the cast sounded phenomenal every time they sang. It was really impressive that they could all harmonize and blend so well, considering they had to perform in the cold. Kenzie Tsang as Jaquenetta had a stand-out performance during her solo song. It was powerful and grounded in genuine emotion—something that is often missed in musical theatre performances. Jasmine Cabanilla as Armado was also a highlight throughout the show; her energy and commitment was electrifying to watch.
Overall, the show was entertaining to watch, as the cast brought a lot of energy to their performances and they all sounded wonderful. Clearly, this production was all about having fun as opposed to being innovative—but no one says that campus theatre needs to be innovative.