Which is not to say that Love's Labour's Lost represents a triumph of sweetness and light. After an hour of flirting and jitterbugging, word arrives in Navarre that the King of France has died. In the play, the news casts a melancholic question mark over the budding affairs between the guys and dolls--a jarring tonal volte-face that might account for the fact that Love's Labour's Lost is the least-performed of the high comedies. Branagh, carried by the simple narrative mores of the musical into a misstep, tacks on a rather cloying coda that supplies a happy ending for all involved.
"I suppose I rationalize it by saying that there was this lost play called Love's Labour's Won," he explained. "In my pathetically romantic view, that was Shakespeare's response to the bad previews of Love's Labour's Lost."
The gang's all here: Kenneth Branagh (left) and the rest of the Love's Labour's Lost troupe