Review: Love’s LaBEERS Lost at Live Art DC

TheatreBloom rating:

Duuuude! Are you down to party with the King of Navarre? Naaah man, I hear he’s got some wicked sick rules— like ‘No woman shall come within a mile of his court on pain of losing her tongue’ and ‘If any bro be seen to talk with a woman within the term of three years he shall endure such public shame as the rest of the court can possibly devise.’ But we hear he throws killer parties! And is super good at beer pong! For the ultimate Shakespeareance— an immersive Shakespeare experience— it’s time to head over to DC Reynolds, a bar in the Petworth district of The District, and check out Love’s LaBEERS Lost, a co-production with Live Art DC and Grain of Sand Theatre. Directed by Sara Bickler and featuring the house band A Rustic Riot, this zany, pub-mersive adventure will take you through one of the Bard’s most ridiculous comedies in a thoroughly enjoyable fashion. It’s an evening of partying, getting your drink on, and a whole new level of Shakespeare made readily available to the masses.

Caitlin Partridge (left) as Princess of France, Danny Cackley (right) as King Ferdinand
Caitlin Partridge (left) as Princess of France, Danny Cackley (right) as King Ferdinand Ryan Maxwell Photography

Director Sara Bickler has done an exceptional job of outlining her concept and making it translate into the most raucous and rowdy party atmosphere possible while still paying reverent tribute to the origin of the work. There is something to be said for Bickler’s mastery of Shakespearean language and her ability to import that to her cast. The emotive basics are still present and although the language is present in its entirety (with additional hilarious and well-placed modern turns of phrase), Bickler encourages the cast to deliver it with a firm handle on the fraternity and sorority party-girl culture that she has inspired for the show’s overall framework without compromising the language itself. The concept that Bickler has created gels flawlessly with the plot, particularly in how she has phrased it, and set it inside the bar.

Enhancing the fraternity and sorority aesthetic of the show’s atmosphere, Costume and Prop Designer Heather Whitpan takes to fabricating all sorts of fancy fashions that are well suited to the personalities that pepper the plot. The collegiate hipster feel is threaded liberally throughout the characters in the court of Navarre, while a more California-coast-Kardashian party girl couture is what the Princess and her posse present when they come to town. Whitpan deserves a PBR (at the very least) for her additional work during the “guise-n-swap” scene where some glitzy masks and ridiculous beards come into play.

It’s an experience that has to be— experienced. With drinking games, interactive moments, and a unique pub atmosphere that encourages the shenanigans so ripe and primed in Shakespeare’s text, there’s little more to be said for it that wouldn’t spoil the encounter entirely. The house band, A Rustic Riot (featuring Slick Nick Riot on guitars, vocals, and harmonica, as well as Chris Rustic on drums, percussion, and vocals) gives an added jolt of pizzazz with their live music. Chris Rustic (aka Christopher Herring) doubles up as the hilariously affected voice of Moth while Nick Riot plays the hand-puppet version of him; this is an additional layer of amusement for everyone involved.

The camaraderie shared among the two factions of players is hearty. The wooing men in the court of Navarre and the partying posse of the princesses play well with one another and deliver a chemistry that is rich and snazzy when it comes to encountering members of the opposite parties. All eleven performers do an outstanding job of engaging with the audience, particularly when it comes to involving them in things like “drunk Jenga” and the quest for Jaquenetta’s love. This is particularly true of Don Armado (Kerry McGee) whose interactions are almost exclusively with the audience, though be careful of her ‘bar-hopping’ (literally— watch how she ascends the bar) as it is most intriguing. McGee, who spends a great deal of the performance being the voice of various letters, is a comic hoot and has finely honed her interactive and improvisational skills.

Kerry McGee as Don Armado in Love's LaBEERs Lost
Kerry McGee as Don Armado in Love’s LaBEERs Lost Ryan Maxwell Photography

Sassy, flamboyant, and simply fabulous, Boyet (Niusha Nawab) is the sauciest attaché for the entourage of elated ladies when they first arrive to the court of Navarre. Serving up a liberal scoop of attitude, Nawab finds a strong balance between the campy caricature nature that the character can be and a firm foothold in the reality of being the man-servant to a bunch of entitled female characters. Nawab is particularly priceless when it comes to playing the go-between during the ‘guise-n-swap’ scene featuring all of the principal performers. Costard (Matthew Taylor Strote), who by show’s end is referred to as Custard, is the fledgling pledge among those in court at Navarre. Playing up the stereotype of the loser freshman, while still paying homage to the needy and greedy servant character, Strote has strong comic timing and makes for an equally opposing force to Nawab’s Boyet.  

Enter the princess posse: The unquenchable Maria (Amber A. Gibson), the incalculable Katherine (Megan Reichelt), the untamable Rosaline (Melissa Hmelnicky), and the Princess (Caitlin Partridge) herself who cannot be stopped as she leads a parade of positively posh pretties onto the scene. Each of these four femme fatale performers finds their niche, living and breathing in the delights of flirting and fending off the gentleman from the court of Navarre. With each possessing the hive-mindset of wanting to get their party on, they thicken the plot with their own maniacal devices, though Shakespeare did pen, these ladies do enact to a wild and racy end!

Jonathan Douglass (left) as Dumain, Danny Cackley (center) as King Ferdinand, and Elizabeth Hansen (right) as Longaville
Jonathan Douglass (left) as Dumain, Danny Cackley (center) as King Ferdinand, and Elizabeth Hansen (right) as Longaville Ryan Maxwell Photography

Longaville (Elizabeth Hansen), Dumain (Jonathan Douglass), and Biron (Kevin Collins.) The learned three stooges of the court, as it were. This trio of performers finds ways of expressing their masculinity as staunchly as the ladies express their femininity, amping up the gender differences in these Shakespearean characters. This is particularly true with the way Hansen settles the unseemly gait of Longaville. Led by their fearless leader, the ultimate frat boy King Ferdinand (Danny Cackley), this quartet of dudes finds themselves in some seriously uproarious situations when it comes to the ladies. Cackley, who almost doubles as a master of ceremonies (next to the members of A Rustic Riot), is present in both realms of the performance— clearly articulating the Bard’s words and intentions through the lens of modern collegiate insanity. Bodacious, right?

It’s a night unforgettable. Do not miss your chance to have a true rocking Shakespeareance right here in the district, for a limited time only!

Running Time: Approximately 2 hours with one intermission as well as pre-show and post-show entertainment options

Love’s LaBEERS Lost plays every Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday night at 9:00pm with Live Art DC and Grain of Sand Theatre at DC Reynolds— 3628 Georgia Avenue NW in the Petworth neighborhood of Washington DC. A limited number of tickets are available at the door but it is strongly recommended that they be purchased in advance online.

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