On Thursday, April 28, Staff Writers Kate Mekechuk and Simon Panfilio attended KCST’s performance of The Knight of the Burning Pestle, running April 28, 29, and 30th at 8 pm in front of Kent Hall.
It was a cold and windy Thursday night. Both of us were unprepared for the show to be outside in front of Kent Hall, yet there we were, freezing with only a thin puffy black jacket and the hot chocolate Kate spilled on herself to keep her warm. The show began and Columbia’s own King’s Crown Shakespeare Troupe (KCST) took the stage; even though we were expecting a true Shakespearean performance, KCST left us astonished with something much better.
The Knight of the Burning Pestle is a meta-play, opening with two married grocers, George (Nick Porsborg CC ‘22) and Nell (Lauren Unterberger BC ‘24) who interrupt a performance of a fictional play, The London Merchant. George and Nell demand, mid-show, that their apprentice Rafe (Luisa Nahr BC ‘25) be given a role in The London Merchant to show off his (substantial) acting chops, forcing the cast of The London Merchant to scramble to accommodate the grocers while still trying to put on their original show.
While The Knight of the Burning Pestle was written by Francis Beaumont, it is both a contemporary and a satire of Shakespeare, making it a show you don’t want to miss. Out of all the Shakespearian shows we’ve seen at Columbia so far, we believe this one deserves a gold star. To quote an audience member, it was “the best goddamn non-Shakespeare Shakespeare I’ve ever seen.”
Porsborg and Unterberger, situated in the audience throughout the show, both wowed with their comedic timing and improv ability, which included reacting to an adorable but aggressive dog that took issue with their space work among the audience members. Nahr stole the show with a wildly impressive performance; other standouts included Miranda Paiz BC ‘25 and Sofia DeSanto BC ‘24, who played the star-crossed lovers Jasper and Luce of The London Merchant, and Wesley Schmidt CC ‘22, in the role of the flamboyant bard Master Merrythought.
Like the design, the props were minimalist, but each of them added something valuable to the performance. The actors all had a very seasoned knowledge of the meaning of their lines, making it easier for the audience to understand. Each line had a strong delivery, and every actor was immersed in the performance, reacting to everything happening on stage and always staying in the moment. There was some initial confusion in figuring out when they were performing the play-within-the-play (The London Merchant) or Burning Pestle itself, but that didn’t matter because we were having fun along the way.
KCST’s performance was all the more impressive given the weather conditions, in that it was really cold and also pretty breezy. Despite the fact that the weather conditions were bad enough to make a Canadian shiver, the actors—some of which were fashioning mid-length trousers—showed no signs of being affected, projecting and acting with such a liveliness that we almost forgot we were out in the cold weather. (Almost!)
Not only would their performance have made Beaumont proud, but the actors of KCST also enlivened the play by including modern allusions, ranging from using the tunes of “Wonderwall” and High School Musical’s “We’re All In This Together” to making outright references to My Chemical Romance. The characters of George and Nell broke the fourth wall to let the audience know it was time for intermission, adding another level of humor to what was already a satirical play.
Although we felt there was no profound philosophical meaning behind the play, it did its job in giving the audience a memorable and enjoyable experience—no matter the weather conditions. Each actor, playing caricatures of Shakespearean archetypes, made their own contributions to the overall humorous nature of the play. So much so, in fact, that Master Merrythought’s distinctive pants seemed to carry their own personality. The “coin pouch,” front and center on the pants, gazed into each audience member’s soul. We recommend you see the coin pouch for yourself tonight and tomorrow night at 8 pm in front of Kent Hall.
KCST performance via Bwog Staff