You can tell from the title that Love’s Labor’s Lost is not going to end “happily ever after.” But far from being messy or depressing, actor Edmund Lewis finds this early William Shakespeare comedy to be refreshing and realistic.
“I think [Shakespeare] was trying to explore the idea of, sometimes it doesn’t work out,” he says. “Sometimes you wind up with that person you’re in love with. Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you have to wait. Sometimes your heart is broken. It’s just a charming exploration of love in its many forms…and of wisdom. And how love can make us do these silly things when we’re…not being completely honest with ourselves, or when we’re following our heart rather than our mind.”
Lewis plays the clownish everyman Costard in what he calls “a really lovely, romantic, silly production” of the show at Folger Theatre. It marks the New York-based actor’s second gig in D.C., after appearing in last season’s St. Joan, also at the Folger. While in recent years the 49-year-old Lewis has been seen in classical productions — most by Shakespeare — none of it has been by design.
“Actually, Shakespeare was not something I have ever aimed to do,” he says. “It really wasn’t something I had trained for or had a huge desire to do. It just kind of happened, and then my love for it developed.” In addition to increasing forays in film and TV, Lewis hopes to stretch himself with more contemporary stage works — and the out actor would be eager to finally get the chance to play a gay character. “I really haven’t [played gay], but I would love to explore that and tell that story.”
For now, however, he’s enjoying treating Folger audiences to the Bard’s early battle-of-the-sexes comedy, directed by Vivienne Benesch. “This one’s always been considered one of his troubled plays, because there are certainly a couple of logic things that are strange,” he says. “And it’s not a terribly plot-heavy comedy. I’ve seen a couple of different productions of it that haven’t quite worked. I think this one gets pretty close to what it should be.
“I think Vivienne has done a really great job with it. And it’s a really great cast, and so it kind of keeps things fun and buoyant. We’ve taken a somewhat difficult play and just made it hugely entertaining.”
Love’s Labor’s Lost runs to June 9 at the Folger Theatre, 201 East Capitol St. SE. Tickets are $42 to $79. Call 202-544-7077 or visit www.folger.edu.