ShakesBEER Is a Great Time, with Singing, Fights, "Yo Momma" Battles, and Comedy Galore

Have you ever wanted to hang out with Falstaff and the gang, whenever they performed skits in Boar’s Head Inn? With Bare Theatre’s ShakesBEER by William Shakespeare and Chuck Keith that’s just what you get to see. At the performance that I saw at Fullsteam Brewery in Durham, the audience got to watch as a slightly inebriated group of players go through a variety of Shakespeare’s works, such as Othello, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, and moments from the Henry IV, Parts 1-3 and Henry V cycle. In addition, they change the performances by putting on a variety of accents, including a Southern Porter speech and a New York-y Helena and Demetrius confrontation.

The performance that I saw did have to take a quick intermission, and then start over, because other bar patrons, not those there to see ShakesBEER, failed to stay quiet or respect the fact that a play was taking place. That being said, I found ShakesBEER enjoyable overall. It is a play that takes place in a bar, so there are some sound issues; but I found the rowdy bar experience enhanced the story and the performance. Chuck Keith’s work adapting Shakespeare was great and made a fun, bar experience. As a Henry cycle fan, I would have loved to see more Falstaff; but it was a great mix of plays that checks off every necessary item on most Shakespeare buffs’ list.

Tara Nicole Williams (left)) and Natalie Sherwood grapple in <em>A Midsummer Night's Dream</em> (photo by Sarah Guizard)
Tara Nicole Williams (left) and Natalie Sherwood in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (photo by Sarah Guizard)

Director Dustin K. Britt clearly did a great job of creating an enjoyable ensemble piece, complete with several musical ballads, a “Yo Momma” standoff, audience participation, and several interesting pieces of choreography, such as the actors turning themselves into a boat. I particularly loved Heather J. Strickland’s swordless fight choreography. With only spoons as sound effects, it’s one of the funniest fights I’ve seen. That being said, I would have loved a program, some kind of list, or name tags to help keep track of what plays were happening.

I was lucky that I attended the performance with my sister, who had just taken a yearlong Shakespeare survey, so she helped to talk me through where we were, although, even if you weren’t totally aware what play was going on, it was enjoyable. In addition, Rebecca Jones’ work as a stage manager showed, because the show ran seamlessly, even with the restart.

As a group, the ShakesBEER performers were a great ensemble, and provided a funny and engaging trip through a variety of Shakespeare’s works. Even in a bar environment, with guests not always willing to quiet down for a show, they gave a great performance. They were very strong as an ensemble, both in choreography, and in pulling guests from the audience and making them a not-too-awkward part of the show.

J. Robert Raines and Natalie Sherwood perform a scene from <em>A Midsummer Night's Dream</em> (photo by Sarah Guizard)
J. Robert Raines and Natalie Sherwood perform in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (photo by Sarah Guizard)

Tara Nicole Williams was a comedic force, cycling through all manner of drunks, from Macbeth’s Porter to the Henry cycle’s Falstaff. In particular, I loved her round of Shakespearian “Yo Momma” jabs and her portrayal of Falstaff. Baring her stomach, she was the type of Falstaff that you never wanted to “banish from thy company.”

Natalie Sherwood had great presence and energy, and played a variety of wistful young men and women very well. Her shining moment was her Helena in a brief Midsummer Night’s Dream part of the script. Her Helena, pouting and extremely physical, was a unique mix between Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors and almost Bugs Bunny-ish in approach. Her aggressive pursuit of Williams as Demetrius through Fullsteam Brewery’s interior bar was simply hilarious.

J. Robert Raines, although also hilarious in his own right, seemed to serve as the group’s straight man. He was also hilarious in the “Yo Momma” sequence, and provided great performance of the musical interludes.

Kyle Mears (left) and J. Robert Raines address the audience in a scene from <em>Othello</em> (photo by Sarah Guizard)
Kyle Mears (left) and J. Robert Raines address the audience in a scene from Othello (photo by Sarah Guizard)

Kyle Mears was a strong comedic force, often playing elderly characters. He worked as a great partner with the rest of the team, although many of the characters that he performed often had a hunchback or looked like they were deformed in some way. Every time a hunchback character emerged, I expected to see Richard III, but it was just another elderly character. His choice to perform Cassio as hunchback was particularly strange, because the character is often interpreted as conventionally “hot.” Why would Othello be jealous of this Cassio? It just seemed like a strange choice, although for some of the characters it worked.

Overall, ShakesBEER is a great time, no matter which “Wooden O” you decide to see it at. Whether it’s Sept 4th and 5th at Fullsteam Brewery in Durham, Sept 6th at Imurj in downtown Raleigh, or Sept. 11th at Mystery Brewing Public House in Hillsborough — this show is a great way to have a night out with Bare Theatre’s Shakespearean players. There’s singing, fights, “Yo Momma” battles, and a chance to be pulled up onstage to be a part of their show. Check out ShakesBEER before these players pack up their pageant wagon.

J. Robert Raines, Kyle Mears, and Tara Nicole Williams sing a song from <em>Othello</em> (photo by Sarah Guizard)
J. Robert Raines, Kyle Mears, and Tara Nicole Williams sing a song from Othello (photo by Sarah Guizard)

SECOND OPINION: Aug. 30th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Sept. 4th Triangle Review review by Kurt Benrud, click

Bare Theatre presents SHAKESBEER at 8 p.m. Sept. 4 and 5 at Fullsteam Brewery, 726 Rigsbee Ave., Durham, NC 27701; 8 p.m. Sept. 6 at Imurj, 300 S. McDowell St., Raleigh, NC 27601; and 8 p.m. Sept. 11 at Mystery Brewing Public House, 230 S. Nash St., Hillsborough, NC 27278.

TICKETS: Admission is FREE.

INFORMATION: 919-322-8819 or

SHOW:, Durham:, Raleigh:, and Hillsborough:



Durham: (directions:

Raleigh: (directions:

Hillsborough: (directions:


Katy Koop is a writer, comedic actor, and stage manager based in Cary, NC. As a freelance writer, her work has been published by Later, Femsplain, and Hello Giggles. When she’s not writing or involved in a local production, she’s tweeting under the handle @katykooped. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.