Adapted from Shakespeare; Directed by David Hudson
Produced by Brass Jar Productions
Off Broadway, Comedy
Runs through 3.17.19
The Lounge, 777 Eighth Avenue
by Lexi Orphanos on 8.19.18
Mike Sause in Drunk Shakespeare. Photo by Eric Sause.
BOTTOM LINE: Drunk Shakespeare is the Bard for bros, combining the fraternization of a state school Friday night with Elizabethan egotism.
As it approaches its fourth anniversary Off-Broadway, Drunk Shakespeare sticks to its successful formula, now in a new performance space. As ever, the members of the Drunk Shakespeare Society greet the audience with their favorite drinking quotes penned by the Bard of Avon: "Drink sir, is a great provoker" (Macbeth, Act 2, Scene 3) stands out, capturing the exact spirit of the ragtag company. The theatre, a hidden library, is designed to shift the audience's perspective inward toward the narrow strip of the stage, where five actors take on the feat of performing one of several possible Shakespearean plays. With the joie-de-vivre of frat boys laying ground rules for a drinking game, the jolly cast announces the drama they're about to tackle, proclaims a King and Queen from the plebeian audience, and introduces one thirsty thespian who will soon be imbibing five shots.
At a Friday night late show, I caught longtime DSS member Scott Watson becoming increasingly more red-faced while playing the role of Banquo in Macbeth. Soberly joining Scott onstage were Mike Sause as Macbeth, Aubrey Taylor as Macduff, Hayley Palmer as Lady Macbeth, and Josh Hyman as Ross and others. As part of their house rules, the King and Queen (who participate in an auction to purchase the throne package, complete with champagne and caviar) are allowed to dole out supplemental shots to the already drunk actor. The Drunk Shakespeare experience varies from performance to performance, not because of the onstage intoxication, but because of the audience. At performances I previously attended, the crowd was as polite and quiet as typical theatergoers. However, the show I most recently caught was rowdy, with audience members drunkenly attempting to participate, and not adhering to standard theatre etiquette.
Thankfully, the professional cast understands that, while some audience members are there to be liberally liquored, others are seeking a lighthearted evening of comedy. When two audience members became so loud that I couldn't hear the actors, standout company member Josh Hyman swooped in and made sure to guide those of us being impacted to newer, better seats, all without missing a beat of the fast-paced show. Perhaps this isn't far off from the environment of Shakespeare's original productions at the Globe, with sloshed commoners filling the pit as is often rumored.
Although Drunk Shakespeare is guaranteed fun, it's important to view it as an immersive crowd-pleaser, not an experience that will fulfill your needs for a rich character-driven drama. While the actors do highlight dramatic moments and famed monologues, most of the language has been simplified to become easily digestible. This show marries a college kegger to an Elizabethan secret society, so if you're not the party type, it might not be for you. However, Drunk Shakespeare is a hot ticket for those who don't usually find amusement in live theatre, and provides a great opportunity for "bro" types to find passion in the poetry.
(Drunk Shakespeare plays at the Lounge, 777 Eighth Avenue, through March 17, 2019. The running time is 90 minutes with no intermission. Performances are Mondays at 7:30; Wednesdays at 8; Thursdays at 7:30; Fridays at 8 and 10; and Saturdays at 6, 8, and 10. Tickets are $55 - $89 and are available at brasstix.com. For more information visit drunkshakespeare.com.)
Drunk Shakespeare is adapted from William Shakespeare. Directed by David Hudson. Set Design is by Dan Soule. Costumes are by Caitlin Cisek. Music by Postmodern Jukebox. General Manager is Scott Griffin. Resident Director/Production Manager is Lisa Klages.