MADISON, NJ – Beautifully staged at the amphitheatre of St. Elizabeth College, “Love’s Labour’s Lost” is a wonder to behold. The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s annual outdoor production takes place across the way from its home on the Drew University campus.
Despite a few raindrops or occasional planes overhead, the actors never miss a beat in bringing William Shakespeare’s hilarious and convoluted comedy to life.
Under the direction of Brian Crowe, the cast performs superbly. The plot centers on four young noblemen, who have vowed to abstain from food and stay away from women while pursuing scholarly studies for three years. Of course, temptation comes about when four young French women arrive. There’s much misunderstanding, as love letters fall into the wrong hands.
Susan Maris is Rosaline, the lovely young woman in love with the handsome Berowne, played by Ben Jacoby. Jezmille Darbouze brings a regal note to the Princess of France and seems very much in charge. King Ferdinand (Jonathan Raviv) is smitten with her. Austin Ku as Dumaine is taken with Kristen Kittel as Kathryn, while Longaville (Aaron McDaniel) falls for Maria (Carrie Walsh.) . Bruce Cromer is all-knowing as the school master, Holofernes
A number of players will be familiar to NJST audiences. Among them is Jeffrey M. Bender, in his 16th season. He is a hoot as Don Armado, quite full of himself, with his eye on the comely wrench, Jaquenetta, played with glee by Rebecca Gomberg. His love letter to her is one of the turning points of the play. Clark Scott Carmichael in the role of Boyet, another familiar name, is in his 13th production at the Shakespeare Theatre. In Act II, the noblemen disguise themselves as Muscovites and a lively Russian dance ensues.
Costumes by Nikki Delhomme are lovely for the ladies and noblemen, flamboyant for others in the cast. Lighting by Hamilton E. S. Smith and sound by William Koch enhance the spell of this improbable world.  And, let’s face it, you can’t beat the setting as the sky darkens to nightfall with trees outlined in shadow. Families bring picnics and youngsters have plenty of time to frolic on the lawn and will absorb a bit of culture in an evening filled with surprise and delight.
"Love’s Labour’s Lost" continues  on the campus of the College of Saint Elizabeth in Convent Station through July 26. For tickets, visit ShakespeareNJ.org.