94 Gansevoort St.
Tuesday-Saturday through January 4, $75-$200
In William Shakespeare’s Love’s Labor’s Lost, Moth tells Costard, “They have been at a great feast of languages, and stolen the scraps.” That line might have been cut from Shake & Bake Theatre’s tasty, streamlined adaptation of the Bard’s mid-1590s comedy, but it is an apt description of the festive experience to be had at 94 Gansevoort St. across the street from the Whitney. The two-hour presentation features music, dance, an eight-course menu with drinks, and a fine dose of Shakespeare, all stirred together for an appetizing evening. Shake & Bake boils things down to three men, King Ferdinand of Navarre (Darren Ritchie), Longaville (Oge Agulué), and Berowne (Matthew Goodrich), who have just taken a three-year vow of no women, spare eating and sleeping, and intense study when a trio of ladies suddenly arrives, the Princess of France (Victoria Rae Sook), Rosaline (Mary Glen Fredrick), and Maria (Rami Margron). The Princess has come to collect a hefty debt that King Ferdinand owes her father. The men’s will is tested as they pair off in potential love matches: the King with the Princess, Berowne with Rosaline, and Longaville with Maria. Meanwhile, the Chef (Joe Ventricelli) prepares food and drink, the Cheetos-loving Costard (Margron) misdelivers some crucial letters, Boyet (Charles Osborne) attends to the ladies, and Spanish nobleman Don Armado de Adriano confesses his love for the (unseen) country maid Jaquenetta. Mystery and mayhem ensue as the cast also serves a rather impressive dinner.
Created and adapted by director Dan Swern, choreographer Sook, and executive chef David Goldman, Shake & Bake: Love’s Labor’s Lost is a sweet and savory treat, even for Shakespeare purists. The show takes place in a large space where the audience of no more than fifty sits in cool, comfy couches for two or four people, surrounding the action; Shawn Lewis’s production design also includes a small kitchen on one side and a culinary cart wheeled on- and offstage. The male and female protagonists are dressed like royal waitstaff, in different-hued button-down tops, while Armado is in a nutty and colorful chef’s outfit. The dishes they serve, which relate directly to what is happening in the play, include field greens with balsamic quinoa, Cheeto-dusted mac n’ cheese, smokey brisket tacos, and roasted beet gazpacho, along with red and white wine and a shot of Jagermeister. (Vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and nonalcoholic options are available.) The soundtrack ranges from acoustic guitar played by Ritchie and accordion by Margron to Scott Bradlee and the Postmodern Jukebox’s covers of Meghan Trainor’s “All About the Bass” and Lorde’s “Royals,” along with snippets of songs by the Beatles, Hall & Oates, Whitney Houston, Outkast, New Kids on the Block, and Queen. Osborne provides wild and wacky over-the-top comic relief, playing up his character for all its worth, while Margron adds in her fair share as Costard.
Goodrich and Fredrick are a particularly attractive Berowne and Rosaline among an appealing cast — a member of which might rest a head on your shoulder, lick the bottom of your shoe, or, as one did with me, hand you a package to deliver, telling you not to worry because the entire plot rests on your correctly performing the task. Early on, Berowne proclaims, “Come on, then, I will swear to study so, / To know the thing I am forbid to know: / As thus — to study where I well may dine, / When I to feast expressly am forbid; / Or study where to meet some mistress fine / When mistresses from common sense are hid.” Fortunately, they break all oaths, and everyone benefits in this delightfully filling reimagination of dinner theater. (As a bonus, Shake & Bake is presenting “Beers and Bard” on November 26 [$10, 7:00], in which audience members can preselect a part to play in Twelfth Night [scripts are provided] or grab a drink from the bar and simply watch the proceedings.)