Shakespeare’s comedy of courtship is a romance that ends almost tragically, suggesting an early theatrical cliffhanger, one that might have been resolved in a supposed lost second play, Love’s Labour’s Found. Director Charles Pasternak’s mostly workmanlike production boasts an obvious and keenly felt affection for Shakespeare. Yet, we’re frequently unable to escape the sense that the performers are having more fun discovering the Bard’s work than the audience is having watching it, as Pasternak’s staging lacks a rigorous understanding of the text’s subtleties. In the kingdom of Navarre, young King Ferdinand (Eddie Castuera) dedicates himself to a life of asceticism, convincing his best buddies to join him in a three-year vow of chastity. No sooner is the promise made than a sultry French princess (Samantha Stinger) arrives for a visit, accompanied by her trio of luscious best pals. It’s not long before the boys’ chastity vows have gone the way of a political-campaign promise — off like a prom dress. Meanwhile, daffy visiting Spaniard Armando (Gus Krieger), assisted by his uptight manservant, Moth (Dan Sykes), woos sexy beauty Jaquenetta (Maja Miletich). The show is full of awkward arm-waving, pedestrian line readings, and the loud fake laughing that often suggests actors who are unsure of the play’s innate comedy. In the end, the charming Wooster-and-Jeeves-like interplay between Krieger’s beautifully goofy Armando and Sykes’ prim Moth — and the hilarious play-within-a-play that makes up the comedy’s finale — effectively upstage the show’s less successfully realized “main” subplot and save the day. Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center, 11006 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3:30 p.m.; through December 28. (310) 497-2884. A Porters of Hellgate Production

Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3:30 p.m. Starts: Dec. 5. Continues through Dec. 28, 2008

LA Weekly