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A CurtainUp Review
Drunk Shakespeare

Update: The show closed at Quinn's bar but is reopening for an off-Broadway run at The Lounge at Roy Arias Stages 300 West 43rd Street at 8th Avenue beginning 11/01/14 where it's been successful enough to be booking for an open run. See the following website for full performance schedule And note that ID is required.
"Drink sir, is a great provoker . . .".—Porter
Drunk Shakespeare
Drunk Shakespeare cast (Photo by Jenny Anderson)
Drunk Shakespeare is one of those hard-to-categorize productions in the theatrical firmament. Summed on their website as "Drunk history meets Shakespeare," this is a mug-in-hand fit for theatergoers who savor watching a Shakespeare play while drinking a draft or two.

The performers are an energetic young ensemble called The Drunk Shakespeare Society — Lucas Calhoun, Kristin Friedlander, Phil Gillen, Kate Gunther, Josh Hyman, Whit Leyenberger, Christina Liu, Lindsey Hope Pearlman, Lou Sallan, Damiyr Shuford. They present Shakespeare's Macbeth in 90 minutes for their audience, who seat themselves at the bar or nearby pub tables to watch the mayhem unfold.

It's a hit-and-miss production. But when it succeeds in fusing an infamous scene out of Macbeth to our popular culture, these thesps transform the convivial atmosphere of Quinn's into a macabre world where Michael Jackson, Austin Powers, Simba, Sesame Street puppets, and Baloo from the Jungle Book mingle and hover in the air with the Three Witches.

If a venue can subtly color a theatrical event, Quinn's Bar gives it a hundred percent proof. In fact, this New York ale house could be viewed as the rough counterpart to the Dirty Duck Pub in Stratford-upon-Avon where actors from the Royal Shakespeare Company hang their hat. While this American troupe might not be in the same league as those British actors who took in the Bard with their mother's milk, they do share a similar enthusiasm for the Man of Avon.

The group's performance of Macbeth is as irreverent as it gets. Between swilling shots of whiskey (one actor per evening performs under the influence of nearly 5 shots of whiskey) and chatting with audience members perched on bar stools, they serve up the famous soliloquys and peak moments from the original play that, if you already know the storyline, can follow easily. In this truncated version, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth remain mostly true to type. But to keep the hurly-burly intact the two actors playing the leads execute a cross-dressing routine early on to point out who is really wearing the pants here: Lady Macbeth. When it comes to Shakespearean chops, some ensemble members have a good set; others just so-so.

Okay, Drunk Shakespeare couldn't be cornier, sillier, and downright gimmicky at times. But these obsessed Bardolators, assisted by a King and Queen drafted from the audience (Actually, it was two Queens on the evening I attended!), demonstrate that anything-can-happen, including folks discovering that the Bard and his classic can be right at home in a New York watering hole.

Although there are stretches when more suds than Shakespearean substance flows, all in all, Drunk Shakespeare deserves a toast. It takes the Bard out of his Ivory Tower of elitism and makes him accessible to those who like their Bard with a beer.

Drunk Shakespeare
Performed by the Drunk Shakespeare Society
Cast: Lucas Calhoun, Kristin Friedlander, Phil Gillen, Kate Gunther, Josh Hyman, Whit Leyenberger, Christina Liu, Lindsey Hope Pearlman, Lou Sallan, Damiyr Shuford.
Quinn's Bar, Upstairs, at 356 West 44th St. (44th and 9th). Tickets: $29. For more information, visit online www.drunkshakespeare
3/26/14; closing 6/08/14 -- extended to 8/09/14.
The show closed at Quinn's and is currently at the Lounge at Roy Arias Stages 300 West 43rd Street at 8th Avenue) and booked to run through 9/06/14.
Monday through Saturday @ 8pm; Friday and Saturday 10pm.
Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission
Reviewed by Deirdre Donovan based on press performance of 5/9/14
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