Review: ‘Love’s LaBEERS Lost’ at LiveArtDC and Grain of Sand Theatre at DC Reynolds

Get Thee to This Beer Fest – er – Show!

Love’s LaBEERS Lost is a production in danger of becoming a hot, must-see show that will bring the fire department roaring down on DC Reynolds to clear everyone out due to overcrowding or long lines outside.

 A Rustic Riot, Christopher Herring, Nick DePinto, Caitlin Partridge, Melissa Marie Hmelnicky, Niusha Nawab and Amber Gibson. Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography.
A Rustic Riot, Christopher Herring, Nick DePinto, Caitlin Partridge, Melissa Marie Hmelnicky, Niusha Nawab, and Amber Gibson. Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography.

Never mind. The nimbly adaptive actors will blithely continue their performance in the street or on the back of a fire engine. Love’s LaBEERS Lost was reconceived and directed by Sara Bickler, assistant directed by Nick DePinto, stage managed by Sarah Kamins, and Heather Whitpan is the producing artistic director and the costume and prop designer. It is a collaboration between LiveArtDC and Grain of Sand Theatre, plus the folks at DC Reynolds – who are the host site for the show.

The show – and its premise – are unBEERably funny. I’ll give it four steins up – er – four thumbs up.

Folks who like their Shakespeare performed solemnly, like a high mass in original Latin on a cathedral-like stage in accurate period costumes, aren’t gonna like this version. It would crack their pince nezes.

But, you don’t have to be a Millennial to enjoy a good, farcical show.

The show contains the meat of the plot and much of The Bard’s dialog and infuses it with a lot of 21st Century touches: plastic nerf guns with magnet-tipped “bullets,” Charlie’s Angels poses, prepster shorts, white boards, bro-mancing, texting, rock music and lots of hipster touches.

Audience members who arrive early might catch the in-house band, A Rustic Riot (Nick Riot and Chris Rustic) setting up in DC Reynolds, a neighborhood bar in a narrow, old townhouse with exposed brick walls, vintage oak plank flooring and hefty bar, an upstairs dining and kitchen area, a large outdoor bar and patio, gender neutral bathrooms, attractively plated gourmet dishes – and a long drink menu.

The two-man band set the drum kit on top of the bar and one band member stood on a bar stool for his performance. After cast member Kerry McGee (Don Armado) repaired her tambourine with duct tape, she circulated in the crowd randomly selecting audience members to play a drinking game with her. She was fierce. You didn’t dare say no.

Other cast members set up a “table” – a white board placed atop two wooden chairs. On it they placed red plastic cups filled with PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer), pulled out white ping pong balls and proceeded to involve half the audience in a game of beer pong. Several won cans of PBR.

The audience – about 28 people – packed the house. Sporting a preppy white shirt, bow tie, black button down vest with  shorts … and shod in a pair of high heeled Mary Janes to show off his shapely but hairy calves, Niusha Nawab (Boyet) circulated among the audience guiding people to vacant bar stools for the performance.

The audience didn’t get to sit complacently through the performance – not when most of the action took place just a few inches away. One beefy, bearded audience member was informed he was to be a show character and was given a plastic, filigreed queen’s crown to wear. During his sole bit of dialogue, a cast member flipped a stack of cue cards for him to read. Other cast members sat down among the audience – or, in one instance, asked an audience member to sit on someone’s else’s lap so he could occupy the chair.

Several times during the show, the band would sing: “Move your ass to the other side of the bar.” The first time, we just looked blankly at them. Cast members then quickly herded us down a short set of stairs to the front of the building for the next bit of action.

We were also given a “magic word.” Whenever the word was mentioned during the course of the play, everything stopped and we were to take a deep swallow.

The Magic word was mentioned a lot.

The male characters did their best to look East Hampton preppy as they portrayed a group of men who were on a multi-year retreat who had had sworn off any contact with women.

Caitlin Partridge and Danny Cackley. Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography.
Caitlin Partridge and Danny Cackley. Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography.

King Ferdinand (Danny Cackley) and Biron (Kevin Collins) were the main male characters and those having the biggest problem relating to ladies. Their vow is endangered when a French princess (the winsome but strong-willed Caitlin Partridge) and her entourage show up to entice, tempt and tease the boys. The entourage includes Rosaline (beautifully portrayed by Melissa Hmelnicky), Katherine (Megan Reichelt), and Maria (Amber A. Gibson).

Elizabeth Hansen (Longaville) gets her bro on portraying a male character and she does it with brio. Dumain (Jonathan Douglass), Moth (Christopher Herring), and the hapless servant Costard (Matthew Taylor Strote) filled out the bro-nation.

It was a fascinating way to get up close and personal with Shakespeare. This crew brought the play to life – keeping its plot and poignancy, but piling on the laughs.

I lift my glass to them! Again!

Running Time: Approximately two hours, including an intermission.


Love’s LaBEERS Lost plays through October 22, 2016 at LiveArtDC and Grain of Sand Theatre, performing at DC Reynolds – 3628 Georgia Avenue, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, purchase them online.

At that hour, street parking is free and spots are fairly easy to find on Georgia Avenue and side streets. It is a 2-minute walk from the Georgia Avenue/Petworth Metro Stop.

Note: The show is for those 21 and older. You will be carded.

RATING: FIVE-STARS-82x1550.gif

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Wendi Winters
Wendi Winters is a writer, reporter, columnist and photographer - and a former NYC public relations executive. A good portion of her career has been in public relations - backed by solid experience in fashion retailing, wholesaling, textiles, marketing, advertising, design and promotion. She owned her own successful fashion public relations/advertising/special events/runway show production firm for seven years. As a journalist, she was the first freelancer to bring a journalism award home to The Capital - and then earned two more awards. Since May 2013, Ms. Winters has been a full time staff member at Capital Gazette Communications. Prior to that, she freelanced for the company for twelve years. Including her three weekly columns, she writes more than 250 articles annually. Her writing byline has appeared in Details Magazine, What's Up? Annapolis Magazine, and numerous others. She's been a feature writer for Associated Press Special Features and for Copley News Service. For years, her fashion critic columns ran in the NYC weeklies Manhattan Spirit and Our Town. Since moving to this area in 1999, as a D.C./Baltimore-area theatre critic, her reviews appeared in Theatre Spotlight and The Review. Plus, she was a Helen Hayes Awards nominator for two terms. Mother of four, she continues to be active as a Girl Scout leader and a regional church youth advisor. You bet she can make a mean S'More!


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