If you’re contemplating seeing Love’s LaBEERS Lost, and I hope you are, you might be thinking, “hey, it’s Shakespeare in a bar! We can get a drink and watch a comedy in an intimate venue and have a beer while we do it!”
And yes, it is Shakespeare in a bar, and yes, it is a comedy, and yes, it is an intimate venue. But this show is a lot less…all that, and a lot more like you went out for a drunken night with a whole bunch of actor friends and they all decided to put on a show for you. And it’s terrific fun if you commit to the interactive idea that Live Art DC has designed for you, and just roll with it.
What does committing to it mean? It means arriving early enough to participate in the pre-show, which for me involved drunk Jenga and a brutally honest game of “Never Have I Ever.” It means being a loud participant in the Game of Thrones-themed call-and-response throughout the show, or trying your hand at shooting a nerf gun at a target (full disclosure: my accuracy earned me a free PBR), or maybe playing beer pong. And most of all, it means having much more of a commitment to fun than to the purity of the Bard’s work.
To be clear, LabEERS does present Shakespeare’s original language, as well as the heart of the plot. But this is punctuated occasionally by events such as the two-man live band (A Rustic Riot) telling you to “get your ass to the other side of the bar” for scene changes, or a performer suddenly rapping the rhyming couplets, or any of the numerous other modernized, improvisational silliness in the show.
If you’re not disappointed by this sort of sacrilege, don’t miss this—because there’s little about it that doesn’t work. Anyone who saw Greatest Science Fiction Show at this year’s Fringe Festival shouldn’t be surprised that director Sara Bickler has put together another comprehensively wonderful comedic production.
The venue and the nature of the play have much to do with that: the action takes place at DC Reynolds, a Petworth rowhouse converted into a bar. The first floor—where most of the action takes place—is long and narrow, which makes the production feel two-dimensional in many respects. But for an adaptation of this play, it works: first of all, it’s an intimate venue where you’re never more than a few feet from the performance, and often it is literally happening right in front of you. But the play itself is, at its heart, a comedic cold war between the King of Navarre (Danny Cackley) and his court, and the Princess of France (Caitlin Partridge) and her retinue. The narrow space serves to not only bring the audience closer to the performers, but also accentuates that dynamic between these friendly rivals.
Love’s LaBEERS Lost
closes October 22, 2016
Details and tickets
The cast is just as good as the production, and there are no weak links. Cackley pulls off the lovestruck bro nerd Ferdinand with aplomb, and Partridge has just the right combination of sweetness and wile for her lead role. But I would be remiss not to also mention the performances of Kerry McGee as Don Armado and Matthew Taylor Strote as Costard as their subplot evolves throughout the play.
This is a great show, but it’s even better if you turn it into an experience. Have dinner and a drink before the show (you can’t go wrong with the dinner and cocktail menu at DC Reynolds), pick a good seat, do the pre-show, and turn it into a full evening out. That’s what this production is designed for.