Comida sabrosa …Obra escabrosa
Versión de “Love’s Labour’s Lost” al estilo “Shake and Bake”

Photo By © Chad Batka

Algo maravilloso está pasando en cada función de “Love’s Labor’s Lost” presentada por el Shake and Bake Theatre Company  que ciertamente hace honor a su lema “Great Theatre must be consumed” (Hay que consumir el Gran Teatro)….porque los diestros actores que interpretan la obra también cantan, bailan y tocan varios instrumentos musicales mientras preparan y sirven  ocho platos de un menú gastronómico. Los platos incluyen: los Pirineos (una variedad de canapés)…la determinación del Rey (vegetales escabechados)…su alojamiento real (ensalada mixta con chinchona balsámica y …remuneración (los macarrones con queso espolvoreados de cheetos… la abundancia de la caza (tacos de pecho de res ahumado con ensalada de repollo)…hazla limonada (refresco de limonada rosada)…los moscovitas (gazpacho de betabeles asados)…el plato final, dulce despedida…crema cocida de leche cuajada. Si tienen restricciones dietéticas, pueden cambiar el menú.

En cuanto a la obra, lo más importante, en una obra que estire los limites teatrales, es que el espectador llegue a entender la verdadera esencia de Shakespeare…y esto es exactamente lo que el logró el director Dan Swern, que codirigió con David Goldman quien, por casualidad, es el jefe de cocina). El elenco  que escogieron es de primera, manejando sus dobles o triples papeles, bailando a una música ecléctica que incluye acordes clásicos y modernos, tocando piano, guitarra, zanahorias (¡si, zanahorias!), cucharas, cuchillos y otros implementos de cocina, bailando y actuando como payazos. Como mencioné anteriormente, el espíritu de la obra y su mensaje son brillan a través de todo lo que está pasando.

¿Y la obra? …una historia de amor, típica de las comedias románticas de Shakespeare con todos los trucos, los disfraces, las falsas identidades y el desenlace que resuelve los desórdenes y las confusiones creadas por los personajes en sus tentativas para encontrar lo que buscan en la vida. Cuando la hija del Rey de Francia tiene que viajar a Navarra para negociar la recompensa para una deuda que es debe pagar al Rey de Navarra . Antes de que lleguen ella y sus doncellas Rosalina y María, el Rey de Navarra, junto con sus escuderos Berowne y Longaville habían decidido no tratar con las mujeres, toman nada más que seis comidas a la semana y dormir sólo tres horas por noche para que puedan dedicar su tiempo a estudiar.

 

 

Shake & Bake is an acting company offering a taste of Shakespeare with dinner. They’ll be performing the comedy “Love’s Labour’s Lost” in the round, directed by Dan Swern, starting in October. Ticketholders will dine on an eight-course feast (wine included) during the show. There are 50 seats for each performance.

Shake & Bake: “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” 94 Gansevoort Street (Washington Street), performances begin Oct. 2, tickets $75 to $200, shakeandbaketheatre.com.

Abstinence is “flat treason ‘gainst the kingly state of youth,” charges the wily Lord Berowne in William Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost. The creators of Shake & Bake: Love’s Labour’s Lost, a revival production that serves comedy with an eight-course meal and copious booze, heartily agree. A collaboration of chef David Goldman, movement director Victoria Rae Sook, and director Dan Swern, this unique show puts a delicious spin on one of Shakespeare’s most beguiling comedies, sending you home sated and more than a little tipsy. This isn’t your grandma’s dinner theater.

It begins with King Ferdinand of Navarre (Darren Ritchie) pledging to spend the next three years of his life fasting and studying; his best friends Berowne (Matthew Goodrich) and Longaville (Oge Agulué) begrudgingly agree to join him. We usually realize that their plan is doomed to fail with the arrival of the Princess of France (Sook) and her ladies-in-waiting, Rosaline (Mary Glen Fredrick) and Maria (Rami Margron). They’ve come to resolve a conflict over Aquitaine, territorial disputes being the great aphrodisiac of Renaissance Europe. Ferdinand insists that they must camp outside the court in keeping with the strictures of his regimen, a decision that invariably moves the most exciting action to the surrounding park.

Rami Margron, Victoria Rae Sook, and Mary Glen Fredrick play the French delegation in Shake & Bake: Love’s Labour’s Lost.

(© Chad Batka)

In this production, we know the game is up from the moment we enter back room at 94 Gansevoort Street, which has been decorated with rich fabrics and a perimeter of couches, conveying the vibe of a Roman orgy (production design by Shawn Lewis). A man in a chef’s jacket (Joe Ventricelli in a role devised for this production that cleverly aggregates several smaller parts) prepares canapés on a central cart as the cast serves water and pickled vegetables, the menu’s only concession to the King’s asceticism.

Goldman’s tasting menu smartly echoes and enhances the story: As the comic Spaniard Don Armando (Charles Osborne) delivers a monologue professing his love of the country girl Jaquenetta, onions sizzle in the background, providing ideal sound and olfactory design. The French arrive bearing wine, bien sûr. When the men disguise themselves as Muscovites, they treat us to little shots of beet gazpacho, which they understandably misrepresent as borscht. Brisket tacos are served during intermission, the bounty of a successful hunt

Close readers of Shakespeare will notice some missing characters: Navarre and France are each down a companion (Dumaine and Katharine, respectively). They are not particularly missed. More noticeable is the absence of Jaquenetta, although she is nearly conjured through the force of Armando’s exuberant love letter to her. A natural comedian, Osborne almost runs away with the show in the dual roles of Armando and the princess’s attendant Boyet, here portrayed as an incorrigibly sassy glamour bear. Margron also impresses in the double roles of Maria and Costard (Armando’s rival for Jaquenetta’s affection). Margron is so versatile and transformative that I went through most of the play thinking that two different actors played these roles.

Swern’s nimble staging matches the economy of his well-shorn script: The run time is cut down to two hours, with the whole Kingdom of Navarre effortlessly squeezing into the dining room. Kitchen utensils serve as props (Armando gloriously uses tongs as castanets), and food preparation becomes resonant stage business. Sook’s wittily choreographed dances evoke Elizabethan jigs while executing the essential tasks of serving and bussing each dish. Clad in chef’s outfits altered slightly to correspond to each character, the cast welcomes us into what feels like an intimate dinner party amongst a group of particularly nerdy friends.

The creative team also understands the crucial role alcohol plays as a lubricant of hospitality: In addition to two wine pairings and a specialty cocktail, we’re invited to do shots (from a bottle of Jägermeister, naturally) when the princess bags a stag in the king’s park. Would you believe that the verse sounds better the more you drink?

Happily, the company of Shake & Bake understands that Shakespeare’s comedies thrive in a joyous, inventive, and thoroughly irreverent atmosphere. These plays were written to be performed for the groundlings as they swilled ale and chowed down on turkey legs. Cheeto Dusted Mac n’ Cheese (the junk-food-as-haute-cuisine fourth course) is certainly the Meatpacking District equivalent of that. While Shake & Bake gives the impression of a pop-up restaurant in Manhattan’s trendiest neighborhood, I hope it sticks around to become a more permanent establishment.

 

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