It’s not often that we’re able to merge our current career as a food writer and our early dream of becoming a Shakespearean actress, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars owed towards private conservatory programs (sorry, mom). But thanks to New Place Players—an Equity company that performs the Bard’s works at private homes, restaurants, and event spaces throughout the city, while guests enjoy five course meals prepared by a rising star chef — our twin passions for gourmet fare and iambic pentameter were both equally and delightfully indulged.
The troupe is currently engaged in the always crowd-pleasing Midsummer Night’s Dream, during their one-month residency (February 25th-March 19th) at the historic Casa Duse mansion in Park Slope. And since the show is entirely interactive, with 22 guests arranged around lavishly appointed banquet tables in the living room (i.e., the stage), you’ll likely be on the receiving end of one of Puck’s bawdy pelvic thrusts, encircled by the clumsy crew of charmingly blundering Mechanicals, or find yourself clutching onto your wine for dear life, as star-crossed inamoratas wrangle and wrestle at your feet.
In lieu of intermission, there are frequent breaks between courses. Although the action never quite stops, as a trio of troubadours warbles “Winter Song” in the foyer, or the weary lovers succumb to fairy dust-induced comas—snoring on armchairs and chaise lounges, while guests tuck into “Lysander’s Beloved Spiced Chocolate” dessert. And talk about immersive; chef Zachary O’Neill cleverly marries his dishes to the plot, so prior to the start of the play (which kicks off with Theseus and Hippolyta’s nuptials), attendees mill about like wedding guests, munching on Black Bean Tostadas and Mango Tartine. And the scent of “Bottom’s Spellbound Smoked Yerba & Tomatillo Braised Beef” wafts temptingly through the air, as the actor-turned-ass gets his muzzle stroked by the mesmerized Titania, in Act 3 Scene 1.
This winning bit of dinner theatre will set you back $125 for the “Gourmet Salon” performances on Thursdays, which is pretty reasonable, considering how much you’ll pay for a Broadway ticket and a pack of pretzels from the concession stand. Or, you can take in a “Groundlings Show” on Wednesdays for $75, which comes with a rustic, proletariat-friendly meal, beer and table wine. Which might just be how we satisfy our Shakespeare obsession next, considering we still have thousands of dollars in school loans left to pay.