By: Paulanne Simmons
November 11, 2018: If serving dinner is an art, never was this more true than in Shake & Bake: Love’s Labour’s Lost, in which the actors are both characters in Shakespeare’s comedy and waiters serving an eight course tasting menu (created by executive chef David Goldman). The members of the audience (a.k.a. diners) are seated by low tables, on chairs and sofas on the periphery of the room, while the play is performed in the center space.
In this version of Shakespeare’s comedy, the ailing King of France owes King Ferdinand of Navarre (Darren Ritchie) money and sends his daughter, Princess of France (Victoria Rae Sook), with her ladies, Rosaline (Mary Glen Fredrick) and Maria (Rami Margron), to negotiate a settlement. However, Navarre and his men, Berowne (Matthew Goodrich) and Longaville (Ogé Agulue), have taken a vow to eat only six meals a week, sleep three hours a night and give up women in order to devote themselves to study. The Frenchwomen must remain outside the court.
While the actors, dressed as waiters and kitchen help, play the noble men and women settling their differences and falling in love, they also serve the guests in this newly renovated space (industrial elegant) in the Meatpacking District. What’s more, in true Elizabethan fashion, the actors are troubadours, singing, playing musical instruments and dancing.
The dancing most often suits the specific character. For instance, the Spaniard, Don Armado (Charles Osborne) is adept at Flamenco. Other clever touches include a swordfight with kitchen utensils and pot covers, and conspiratorial asides to the audience. Throughout the performance, music that varies from Hip Hop to songs from Broadway musicals to international favorites is piped in while the audience watches and eats.
Let it be noted that the actors are not only excellent in their roles but also proficient waiters, something not too surprising when one considers how so many actors at one time in their lives earn their living. They also pour wine and bus the tables. And they’re not working for tips!
In fact, what they get at the end of the show is well-deserved applause. This Love’s Labour’s Lost is a feast for the eyes, ears and palate. It’s the kind of innovate theater we’re all hungry for.
Shake and Bake: Love’s Labour’s Lost
94 Gansevoort Street, www.shakeandbaketheatre.com.
Running time is approximately 2 hours with intermission.
Ticket prices: $75 – $200.
Tuesdays-Thursdays: 7pm, Fridays: 8pm. Saturdays: 1pm and 8pm or 5pm and 9pm, Sundays: 11am or 1pm and 6pm
Photo: Chad Batka