SLHS’ ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ opens tonight

From left, Morgan Olsen, Liz White, Rosemary Crowley, Eleanor Crowley, Sarah Dalton and Henry Smith (floor) rehearse Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost” at Saranac Lake High School Monday. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

SARANAC LAKE — Marshmallows, hockey jerseys and scooters — must be Shakespeare.

Saranac Lake High School students will perform Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost” tonight, Friday and Saturday.

The comedy follows a group of noblemen and ladies as they pursue romantic desires. The noblemen, led by King Ferdinand, swear off vices such as drinking, overeating and women for three years to study academics and arts. However, their abstaining is quickly tested when a princess and her female attendants arrive.

The play, which was written in the 16th century, takes place in France, but for some added humor, Director Kent Streed set the play in the Adirondacks. Ferdinand’s court isn’t a grand castle with high walls and a moat, but a campsite full of tents, pine trees and mountain bikes. When the men try to deceive the women into thinking they are other people, instead of dressing like Muscovites like in the original play, they disguise themselves as lumberjacks with flannel shirts, fake beards and cartoony Canadian accents.

“Love’s Labour’s Lost” isn’t your textbook comedy. For the all laughs and hijinks that go on, it climaxes with a curveball.

Joseph Larabie, left, and Garrett Tuttle rehearse Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost” at Saranac Lake High School Monday. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

“It’s kind of a bittersweet ending,” Kent said. “When people do the full-fledged Shakespearean version, scholars and everybody say, ‘Oh, what an ending. How did this happen?’ It stops rather abruptly, but I think the fact that it’s melancholy lets you get the point.”

Kent originally proposed five different plays, and the students chose “Love’s Labour’s Lost.” Kent said he was hoping they’d choose that one.

“There were a lot of other fun and well-written plays to consider,” he said, “but I threw the gauntlet down and said, ‘If you do this, you can say you did Shakespeare.’ That was kind of attractive to the students, I think.”

Sometimes Shakespeare is perceived as an intimidating writer because he uses language and phrases that are 400 years old. It’s still English — nowhere near as confusing as the old English of “Beowulf” — but readers often chose the copies with contemporary Cliff notes.

“This has been edited down where it’s pretty conversational,” Kent said. “There are a few soliloquies that we’ve monkeyed with and taken a more contemporary approach. I think it’s an easy-to-understand adaptation.

Saranac Lake High School seniors Sarah Dalton and Joseph Larabie play the princess of France and King Ferdinand in Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost.” (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

“Shakespeare wrote to be accessible to all the people who were paying with pennies and sitting in the seats right up front.”

Senior Joseph Larabie plays King Ferdinand. This is his third year performing in shows at SLHS. He’s also participated in Pendragon Theatre’s summer camp.

“I think a little bit of me enjoys the attention,” he said. “Another part likes the whole dynamic of memorizing these lines and then converting them into how a real person would say it. Also, it’s the crowd. I got into it because all my friends act, and now everyone in the theater program is my friend. The community here loves the theater.”

Larabie said he’d like to continue his work in theater after high school.

“I’m actually intending on studying performing arts and communication at St. Lawrence University,” he said. “If not there, then I’ll try for SUNY Potsdam. They’ve got a good program there.”

There’s a lot of young blood in the fall play this year. Thirteen students are in the cast, and six of them are freshmen.

“You sometimes will have young actors who know exactly what they’re doing, and then on the other hand, you’ll have people in their very first show, and they’re not really sure what to do,” Larabie said. “It’s good to have the more experienced people there to help them along. You don’t need to be an master actor and performer to do these shows. There’s definitely a larger acting body in the underclass, so they allow us to have the show. There’s only four seniors in this play.”

Streed also said he likes having a big crop of younger actors.

“It means that they’ll be part of the program in some way for the next three or four years,” he said. “It’s great to see them all step up.”

If you go…

What: “Love’s Labour’s Lost”

When: Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m, and Saturday at 3 p.m.

Where: Saranac Lake High School, 79 Canaras Ave.

How much: $5