Review: ‘Love’s Labor’s Lost at Shake & Bake Theater

By Jonathan Spira on 12 November 2018
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Many of Shakespeare’s works – “Julius Caesar” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” come to mind – are reinterpreted multiple times as the centuries march on. But when it comes to such reinterpretations, Shake & Bake’s new production of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” takes the cake. Literally.

In the story that follows, King Ferdinand of Navarre (Darren Ritchie) and his two companions, Longaville (a mischievous Oge Agulué) and Berowne (Matthew Goodrich), attempt to swear off the company of women in favor of three years of study and fasting. The impact that the sudden appearance of the Princess of France (a delightful Victoria Rae Sook) and her coterie (Mary Glen Fredrick and Rami Margron) has on the trio that, “Love’s Labour’s Lost” becomes an immersive work that perhaps should list Julia Child as co-author.

In this innovative setting in Manhattan’s meatpacking district, theatergoers sit down on sofas to a delightful eight-course meal – served by the cast – and a riotous performance of the play that at times borders on the irreverent. Everyone is asked to drink a shot of Jägermeister or two and, well you can see where this is going.

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The presence of Don Adriano de Armado (an over-the-top Charles Osborne), the fantastical Spaniard who is part courtier and part jester, and of the rustic peasant boy, Costard (a cheekier Rami Margron in a second role), clearly won’t be sufficient entertainment.

Few plays require a menu along with a program but such is life at 94 Gansevoort Street. The evening begins with the Pyrenees Mountains canapés, smoked salmon with dill cream cheese and a second one – was that humus served atop a slice of cucumber? – while at each place setting there is a jar of devilishly delicious pickled carrots, aka The King’s Resolve.

The first courses are paired with a crisp pinot Grigio and bottles of New York City water are on the table as well.

At the appropriate moment, the Remuneration – a delightful Cheeto-dusted mac ‘n’ cheese – makes an appearance, followed by the Bounty of the Hunt, a taco made with smoky brisket and vinegar slaw.

To cleanse the palate, a pink lemonade soda with a maraschino cherry is offered and that is followed – timed perfectly for the appearance of the Muscovites – a beet borscht (it’s referred to as a gazpacho on the menu but the waiter – I beg your pardon, cast member, referred to it as borscht). It was one of the best borschts I’ve had, both here or in Russia.

While the play may come to an end, the meal does not as carts with a vanilla panna cotta with brown butter crumble (a Sweet Farewell on the menu) are wheeled in.

As my theater ticket and program both noted , “Good theater must be consumed.”

The play is completely and expertly integrated with the meal and the theater-in-the-round setting makes the immersion complete. Cast members sit and mingle with the audience (at one point, Longaville opened and visibly enjoyed a box of popcorn and shared it with nearby audience members while Berowne and the King engaged in a verbal duel. Longaville asked me to hold and then deliver a present contained in a Tiffany’s box to Rosaline, which I then did in the appropriately exaggerated manner.

THE DETAILS

Love’s Labor’s Lost
Shake & Bake Theater
94 Gansevoort Street
New York, N.Y. 10014
https://www.shakeandbaketheatre.com/

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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