Entertainment » Theatre

Love's Labour's Lost

by Rob Urbinati
Wednesday Nov 14, 2018
A scene from Shake & Bake Theatre's production of "Love's Labour's Lost."
A scene from Shake & Bake Theatre's production of "Love's Labour's Lost."  

If you'd like to see a traditional, straightforward rendering of the complete text of Shakespeare's "Love's Labour's Lost," steer clear of Shake & Bake Theatre's production. But if you're looking for a diverting evening of broad comedy and an eight-course tasting menu, head straight for Gansevoort Street in the meatpacking district of Manhattan.

Shake & Bake Theatre is one of the latest companies to create immersive theatrical projects that break the fourth wall, inhabit non-traditional spaces, serve food and drinks, and use the text as a jumping-off point for an entertainment that includes, but is not limited to the play at hand.

In their production of "Love's Labor's Lost," the text and cast are cut by at least a third. It's not that the adaptation is confusing if you're unfamiliar with the original - it's just simpler, with fewer subplots, and significantly with this play, relieved of obscure references. A chef prepares treats onstage that are delivered and bussed before, during and after the show by the cast, who most often are dressed as waiters with character-specific embellishments.

The show is performed in a small, handsomely transformed industrial space. In Shawn Lewis's production design, pillars, vibrant drapes, large paintings of forests, kitchen utensils, metal serving carts and a panoply of lamps adorn the room. The bulbs in the thirty or so lamps change colors vividly throughout, fashioning a variety of moods. There's no stage or raked seating: the actors engage directly with the audience of fifty who are seated on sofas at tables surrounding a central playing area. It's a playful, intimate and satisfying approach.

The tone is almost consistently farcical, and the young lovers' entanglements are played for laughs. The plot, such as it is, kicks into gear when the King of Navarre (Darren Ritchie) convinces his friends, (Oge Agulue and Matthew Goodrich) to swear off distractions, particularly women, for three years and devote themselves to study. Soon, the French princess (Victoria Rae Sook) and her maids (Rami Margron, Mary Glen Frederick) arrive, making it well-nigh impossible for the men to keep their oath.

Live music with rhythmic accompaniment provided by chopping food, tinkling wine glasses and salad tongs used as castanets; recorded hits by the likes of Outkast and Hall and Oates; silly, exuberant dance numbers; a drinking contest with audience participation; absurd Muskovite disguises, liquor, pickles and - oh, yes, some lovely Shakespearean verse make for a giddy, delicious romp. The actors playing the lovers are immensely appealing, Charles Osborne is a robust clown, and Joe Ventricelli, the onstage chef, is charming in multiple roles.

Co-created by David Goldman (Master Chef), Victoria Rae Sook (Movement Director) and Dan Swern (Director), Shake & Bake's production of Shakespeare's early comedy, at just under two hours, is cheerful, brisk and breezy. While not exactly a feast, this irreverent take on "Love's Labour's Lost" is definitely tasty.

Shake & Bake's Theatre production of "Love's Labour's Lost" takes place at 94 Gansevoort Street, New York, NY. For more information and to reserve tickets, visit the Shake & Bake's website.

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