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When Getting Tipsy Is Part of the Show

Date: Dec 21, 2017

One theatre lover binges on a sprinkling of alcohol-infused productions


Why would liquor lovers limit themselves to a glass of wine at intermission when there are shows that integrate drinking into the actual performance? I recently went on the equivalent of a theatrical bar crawl to experience a handful of New York City productions that offer alcohol as part of the entertainment. And I remember the whole thing. No blackouts ahead!

First up was The Beer Show (formerly known as A Brief History of Beer and now closed) at Under St. Marks -- a moldy, subterranean space that even smells like a dive bar. Fittingly, I'd been unable to find a date. After arriving, I wished I'd tried harder. Dressed in Star Trek uniforms, the show's two co-hosts -- Trish Perry and William Glenn -- are spirited raconteurs. Their time-traveling PowerPoint presentation on the evolution of beer not only references goddesses, witches, and nuns, but also encourages the audience to chug PBRs and Sam Adams to ensure our pseudo-spaceship maintains the proper level of toxicity to get us from century to century. I don't know what tickled me more: the crowd's unflagging willingness to simulate a rocky ride at high warp speed, or the fact that 50% of those in attendance got up to pee during the show... even though that meant crossing the stage. Not that anyone cared.

The Beer Show actually made me wistful about the no-frills, now-closed NYC watering holes I frequented in my boozy thirties, seedy establishments like Dick's Bar, Mars Bar, and Jackie's 5th Amendment. They were the kind of places where some lush would chew my ear off with a binging story that eventually lost direction or steam. The Beer Show aptly incorporates such a moment via a volunteer. Happily, this time around the hosts -- and not me -- told him to wrap it up already.

For the next show I made sure I wasn't flying solo and, to my plus-one's credit, she let me use her bad back as an excuse to avoid the theatre's front-row benches. It wasn't comfort I was concerned about. It was more that Drunk Shakespeare at The Lounge is relentlessly interactive. Within five minutes of taking my original assigned seat, random actors had complimented my mustache, discussed the cost of my wardrobe, and compared my whole look to Game of Thrones' Littlefinger then asked the audience to weigh in -- spurred on, no doubt, by the fruity shots of vodka handed out at the door. Once ensconced safely in the back, I was able to better enjoy this show's faux literary society as they enacted Macbeth while sometimes drinking alongside the audience. As unobtrusive waiters carted out refills to anyone with a credit card, Shakespearean verse was gleefully butchered, a sing-along was lustily sung, and an ass was briefly bared.

There are no naked actors in The Imbible: A Spirited History of Drinking or its sister shows The Imbible: Day Drinking and The Imbible: Christmas Carol Cocktails, all at New World Stages. But there is a lot of drinking. In fact, out of all these intoxicating options, The Imbible seems to give you the most booze for your buck. As custom-made cocktails flow, the cast recounts (and sometimes croons) historical anecdotes related to Veuve Clicquot, Bloody Marys, and the like. Because of the high liquor levels, audience reactions are unpredictable, so I appreciated the performers' dexterity at dealing with mouthy souses, like the one who kept asking them to take their clothes off. (She would have had better luck at Drunk Shakespeare.) The Imbible reminded me that actors who wait tables -- including those who do so as part of their acting -- deserve tips not just because of their talent, but because of their patience. So let's raise a glass to these nonjudgmental enablers! They really raised my spirits.

Have you ever been to a show that encouraged audience inebriation? Tell us about it in the comments!


At press time, discount tickets were available for Drunk Shakespeare and The Imbible: A Spirited History of Drinking. Go here to browse our current offers.

Drew Pisarra's theatre experiences range from ventriloquist (Singularly Grotesque) to librettist (The World Is Round), choreographer (Ladies' Voices) to master of ceremonies (White Wines). Follow him on Twitter at @mistermysterio. Follow TDF at @TDFNYC.

Top image: Trish Perry and William Glenn in The Beer Show. Photo by Richard Winpenny.