St. Mark’s Players’ musical energizes and modernizes ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’

The performances are genuine and passionate, and the show's space feels ethereal.

By Lucille Rieke

Plays have been put on in nearly every location known to humankind, and a show in a church is no new concept; however, there’s something about the ambiance of St Mark’s Episcopal Church on Capital Hill — dark wood, stained windows, and arching ceilings — that makes the musical Love’s Labour’s Lost performed by St. Mark’s Players almost ethereal.

The production is performed in the round: a circular center set piece (designed by Dan Lavanga) with the audience encircling the stage in four seating sections, making it easy for the actors to break the fourth wall and communicate directly with the audience. The natural setup of the church creates a very Shakespearean environment without needing additional accouterments: the pews are pushed to the sides and the architecture of the church frames the space.

Sam Caplan as King, Jesse Friedson as Longaville, Ted Randell as Berowne, and Christian Wilson as Dumain in ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost.’ Photo by Sam West.

Love’s Labour’s Lost with songs by Michael Friedman and book adapted by Alex Timbers is based on the Shakespeare comedy of the same title. It keeps the best parts of the original play, omits the longer scenes, and infuses a pop-rock score to modernize and energize the show.

It’s a fantastic entry point for those new to Shakespeare, as the songs make the language more accessible, and St. Mark’s Players brings the language to life by highlighting the modernization of the story and leaning into the action.

Love’s Labour’s Lost centers on a group of boys and a group of girls, each yearning for love (and lust). At their college reunion, the boys, King (Sam Caplan), Berowne (Ted Randell), Dumaine (Christian Wilson), and Longaville (Jesse Friedson), vow to abstain from alcohol and girls. At the same time, each of them reconnects with their respective college crushes: Princess (Audrey Landau Townsend), Rosaline (Jessica Cooperstock), Maria (Alicia Braxton), and Katherine (Willow Laporte). There’s a secondary plotline, as is typical in Shakespeare, featuring Don Armado (Gerardo Mijares-Shafai) and his love Jaquenetta (Jillian Rubino). In addition, we are graced by the working class of these elites, The Princess’ attendant, Boyet (Caris Gross); Armado’s page, Moth (Eddie Perez-Reyes); Costard (Meredith Warden), an illiterate messenger; and Officer Dull (Josh Katz).

The performances are genuine and passionate all around. Landau Townsend’s Princess is spunky and sassy, contrasted by Caplan’s discipline and reserve as the King (though we get to see his other side in “The King’s Sonnet”). Randell brings a delightful play to Berowne, coupled with his voice, which reverberates through the church. The camaraderie between the four boys is unparalleled and receives many well-deserved laughs.

Mijares-Shafai steals the show with his take on Armado. Within seconds of his first scene, he has stripped down to a pineapple speedo and saunters through the space with a bravado perfectly suited to his character. Rubino pulls all the stops in the iconic “Love’s a Gun.” Standout numbers include “Young Men,” “I Love Cats” (featuring Eddie Perez-Reyes and a stuffed cat), “Rich People,” and “Are You a Man.”

TOP: Caris Gross as Boyet, Jessica Cooperstock as Rosaline, Audrey Landau Townsend as Princess, Alicia Braxton as Maria, and Willow Laporte as Katherine; ABOVE LEFT: Megan Greig as Mercade & Dance Captain, Caris Gross as Boyet, and Jillian Rubino as Jaquenetta; ABOVE RIGHT: Gerardo Mijares-Shafai as Armado, in ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost.’ Photos by Sam West.

Director Paul di Salvo leads the resurgence of this archaic but timeless show into the hyper-modern present. Hilarious examples are when the girls are seen vaping and riding on scooter boards (the little square skateboards featured in nearly every 2000s gym class).

The harmonies in the group numbers, captained by Music Director Sarah Vespa, are enhanced by the beautiful acoustics of the church. The choreography, by Victoria Jungck, fits the tone of the show with comical full-cast dances and lovely partner work between Greig and Gross during “Love’s a Gun.”

The audience turnout is evidence of the power of community theater. The cast features a mix of retired high school/college performers, active DMV artists, and those new to the stage entirely. St. Mark’s Players allows community members to be involved in theater in a multitude of ways and encourages community building through the arts.

Running Time: One hour and 45 minutes with no intermission.

Love’s Labour’s Lost plays through May 18, 2024, presented by St. Mark’s Players performing at St. Mark’s Church, 301 A Street SE, Washington, DC. Tickets ($25 for adults; $22 for students and seniors) may be purchased at the box office or online.

Lucille Rieke is an actor, musician, singer, and teaching artist based in Washington, DC, and San Francisco. She is currently a sophomore at American University studying Theatre Performance and Public Relations. You may have seen her recently in American University’s production of Daughters of Leda (Alex/Eve) or Once (Ex-Girlfriend). Lucille is honored to have the opportunity to write with DC Theater Arts as part of the DC Theater U program and cannot wait to begin seeing more theater in the future.

Love’s Labour’s Lost
Songs by Michael Friedman
Book adapted by Alex Timbers

King: Sam Caplan
Berowne: Ted Randell
Dumaine: Christian Wilson
Longaville: Jesse Friedson
Princess: Audrey Landau Townsend
Rosaline: Jessica Cooperstock
Maria: Alicia Braxton
Katherine: Willow Laporte
Boyet: Caris Gross
Moth: Eddie Perez-Reyes
Don Armado: Gerardo Mijare-Shafai
Jaquenetta: Jillian Rubino
Dull: Josh Katz
Costard: Meredith Warden
Holofernes: Clare Pierce-Worbel
Nathaniel: Justin Latus
Mercade: Megan Greig
“Love’s a Gun” Featured Dancers: Megan Greig, Caris Gross

Director: Paul Di Salvo
Assistant Director: Gokce Oraloglu
Music Director: Sarah Vespa
Choreographer: Victoria Jungck
Dance Captain: Megan Grieg
Producer: Caroline Adams
Producer: Sidney Davis
Producer: Monique Morman
Stage Manager: Page Tazewell
Assistant Stage Manager: Maddy Mustin
Assistant Stage Manager: Brianna Day
Set Design/Construction: Dan Lavanga
Set Construction Crew: Paul Di Salvo, David Hegwood, Chelsea Herrick, Kathryn Stirlir
Scenic Painting Design/Set Dressing: Jillian Rubino
Scenic Painting Crew: Caroline Adams, Paul Di Salvo, Meghan Foster, Megan Greig, Chelsea Herrick, Justin Latus, Sarah Markley, Monique Morman, Ted Randell, Jillian Rubino, Kathryn Stirling, Page Tazewell
Props Designer: Ruth Sturm
Props Assistant: Susan Ades
Costumes: Joan Lawrence
Lighting Design: Sabrina McAllister
Lighting Technician: Scott Graham
Hair & Makeup: Rachel Watson-Pass
Sound Op: Jon Grover
Lighting Op: David Chase, Scott Morton
House Manager: Meghan Foster
Box Office Manager: Randall Kish
Social Media Manager: Lilly McGee
Publicity: Peter Orvetti
Photographer: Sam West


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