Through Monday,
Sep. 11
Imurj, Raleigh/Mystery Brewing, Hillsborough

There are a dozen local dives where Bare Theatre’s tribute to Shakespearean dipsomania would not go over, and not all of them are accessorized in chicken wire or early Harley-Davidson. Last Tuesday, I wondered if Fullsteam Brewery might be one of them.

A beery birthday party in the cavernous room remained oblivious and loud as a plucky Tara Nicole Williams launched a down-home take on Macbeth‘s drunken porter. But Williams and the cast soldiered on, occasionally directing pointed lines toward the cluelessuntil director Dustin Britt stopped the show, gathered the troupe offstage, and asked us to relocate to a back corner. Thankfully, a focused restart took off in spite of the room.

The takeaway? A bar is not a black box, the neutral space itinerant groups often seek. A community has already given it a vibe; the performance there has already started.

Chuck Keith’s deftly written segues were witty for this classic collection of sots, even though I question the omission of The Tempest‘s Trinculo, Stephano, and Caliban. Britt has clearly empowered his actors to take major, often rewarding chances. At times, this young group’s comic timing is locked in; at others, it’s still gelling. ShakesBEER will likely develop further as they continue together.

In quick-change characters, J. Robert Raines segues from a fusty Lord Chief Justice to a Lugosi bit in Othello. A similarly nimble Kyle Mears plays a haggard Mistress Quickly, and newcomer Natalie Sherwood evinces a figurehead on an Illyrian ship and a Venetian brawler.

The ability to read and adjust to a crowd is crucial to commedia, street, and site-specific theater. Do it right and you have a show. Get it wrong, and you’re likely to learn what the chicken wire’s for.