The D&D-Shakespeare mash-up Love’s & Labour’s is raw, messy—and endearing | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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The D&D-Shakespeare mash-up Love’s & Labour’s is raw, messy—and endearing

Odd's Bodkins has created a highly idiosyncratic production steeped in quirky earnestness.

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Dungeons & Dragons' 45-year history has had its volatile moments. Remember the 1980s moral panic when the role-playing game was widely criticized for encouraging suicide (not to mention witchcraft, murder, rape, homosexuality, insanity, and cannibalism, at least according to the international activist group Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons)? Through all the turmoil, one stereotype has remained constant: D&D players are oddballs and misfits holed up in their parents' basements letting their nerd flags fly free and proud.

Odd's Bodkins, in this original mash-up of Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost and D&D, embraces the stereotype unapologetically. Two dungeon masters set two teams in motion, acting out Shakespeare's tale of forestalled love as though stuck in the cellar. With an unabashedly slapdash design—a couple of hand-painted screens, strung-up see-through curtains, and costumes that most likely came from the performers' closets—this loose, bumpy, self-conscious affair feels very much like a haphazard afterthought following too many hours rolling dice and racking up experience points. It's easy to dismiss the whole thing as a scattershot muddle enacted by a small mob of enthusiastic amateurs who mostly lack the chops to make sense of Elizabethan verse.

Or you could enjoy the unique experience of watching a highly idiosyncratic production steeped in quirky earnestness. The show is raw, candid, and endearing in ways that no amount of professionalism can match. While it well overstays its two-hour running time, the genuinely oddball evening is true to the spirit that has inspired gamers for decades.   v

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