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A CurtainUp Review
Shake & Bake: Love's Labour's Lost.

"Let us once lose our oaths to find ourselves,/ Or else we lose ourselves to keep our oaths."
— Berowne
Joe Ventricelli (photo: Chad Batka)
Let the energetic cast of Shake and Bake: Love's Labour's Lost fete you with an entirely new take on the cryptic comedy. Performed in the round in an intimate room in the West Village, eight young actors will amuse you with their comic antics and tickle your taste buds with a delicious eight-course meal.

The cast get up close and personal to the audience in this full-immersion show. As guests arrive and settle into their reserved seats, King Ferdinand of Navarre (Darren Ritchie) strolls around the room with his Spanish guitar serenading them with love songs. When the play is in full bloom, the three noblemen—King Ferdinand, Longaville (Oge Agulue), and Berowne (Matthew Goodrich)—will practice their romantic"moves" on various audience members before they finesse them on their would-be lovers.

The renowned Shakespearean critic Marjorie Garber dubbed Love's Labour's Lost a "brilliant cartoon of literariness-come-to life." But this current production downplays much of the"taffeta phrases" and "figures pedantical" and focuses more on the youthful passion of the lords and ladies as they pair up and woo each other. It also trims down the dramatis personae from 18 to 10 and add a new character, Chef, who's pretty much a stand-in for Armado's (Charles Osborne) peppery page Moth.

The first half of the title announces the culinary spin. Co-writers David Goldman, Victoria Rae Sook, and Dan Swern (who also directs) rightly treat the play as a robust verbal romp that the Grim Reaper cuts short. They also serve up the feast.

Your ticket includes a set meal of meat, dairy, and gluten, although Master Chef David Goldman can accommodate vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free diets as well. But a word to the wise: This Bardian feast can burn a hole in your wallet, depending on the seat you choose and the beverage you sip. Those who want to sit on a plush sofa or upholstered seat and have a premium wine will have to shell out $200. If you go with a non-premium wine, the price is whittled down to $150. If you reserve a bar stool (yes, it has a back!) and stay with the house beverage, it will run you a more reasonable $75. But whether you decide to purchase a premium, regular or economy ticket, you will be treated to the same eight-course meal and have an unobstructed view .

The food is good but the play's is still the thing and the actors speak their Shakespeare trippingly. Victoria Rae Sook has also whipped up some choreography that keeps everybody stepping lively. Shawn Lewis' set is deliberately bare so that metal carts can be wheeled around the room for serving the various culinary courses.

One of the most romantic scenes is when Rosaline (Mary Glen Fredrick) and Berowne (Matthew Goodrich) relive a meeting from their past. Their reverie is sparked when Berowne teasingly asks Rosaline:"Didn't I dance with you in Brabant once?" His rhetorical question leads of course to a match of wits between the couple, and transitions into a steamy tango around a metal cart that serves as a kind of love chariot.

Another dance emerges during the cast's kitchen and glassware preparation when Berowne, Longaville, and Chef (Joe Ventricelli) discovermusic within the clinking sounds of glasses, metal carts, knives, and cutting boards. And, before you can stir a simmering pot, the trio moves to the metallic rhythms. The fantastic Armado (Charles Osborne) joins in the merriment by pulling a pair of tongs out of his pocket, employing them as pseudo-castonets for a fast flamenco.

What makes theis culinary translation of Love's Labour's Lost so appealing is its unique theatrical alchemy. Swern, supported by an able cast, takes the "sweet smoke of rhetoric" from Shakespeare's original, adds on a well-seasoned meal, and simply allows the audience to sit back and enjoy the great feast of language.

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Shake and Bake: Love's Labour's Lost, an adaptation of William Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost
Created and adapted by David Goldman, Victoria Rae Sook, and Dan Swern
Directed by Dan Swern
Cast: Oge Agulue (Longaville), Mary Glen Fredrick (Rosaline), Matthew Goodrich (Berowne), Rami Margron (Maria/Costard), Charles Osborne (Don Armado de Adriano/Boyet), Darren Ritchie (King Ferdinand of Navarre), Victoria Rae Sook (Princess of France), Joe Ventricelli (Chef).
Sets: Shawn Lewis
Movement by Victoria Rae Sook
Menu: Executive Chef David Goldman
Stage Manager: Trisha Henson
At 94 Gansevoort Street, in the Meatpacking District of New York. Tickets: $75 and up. Phone 866-811-4111 or online at
From 10/02/18; opening 10/13/18;tickets on sale through 01/04/2019.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Thursdays @ 7pm; Fridays @ 8pm; Saturdays @ 1pm & 8pm or 5pm & 9pm; Sundays @ 11am or 1pm and 6pm.
Running time: 2 hours with one intermission.
Reviewed by Deirdre Donovan based on press performance of 10/24/18

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