Review: ‘Drunk Shakespeare’ at The Lounge

If you’re a theater-lover expecting a traditional performance of a classic work by Shakespeare, with just one chosen actor struggling to remember the lines after downing multiple shots of whisky and an assortment of other alcoholic beverages, you will be very surprised by the wacky format of Drunk Shakespeare. But if Sir John Falstaff is your favorite Shakespearean character, and you’ve always aspired to partake of the sack like he does, then you will be delighted by The Drunk Shakespeare Society’s heavy-drinking and decidedly unorthodox comedic performance (created by Scott Griffin and David Hudson, who also directs), playing an open-ended run in its new home at The Lounge.

The Lounge. Photo by Deb Miller.

Staged in a room lined with bookshelves (set design by Dan Soule), the raucous and raunchy Shakespeare-themed show is less akin to a play than to a frat house party, loaded with f-bombs, sex jokes, and lots and lots of drinking, by both the cast (the rotating company comprises Nate Betancourt, Danielle Cohn, Tim Haber, Josh Hyman, David Andrew Laws, Whit Leyenberger, Preston Mulligan, Mariah Parris, Mike Sause, Aubrey Taylor, and Khiry Walker) and the attendees (though the present configuration of seats, without tables, makes it difficult to juggle a full glass – which everyone receives upon entering – while filling out a drink order form and applauding the proceedings). It is also heavily reliant on spirited audience participation, so if you go, don’t be a party-pooper or you’ll definitely be the butt of some indecorous ad-libbed assaults. Well, actually, you will be anyway, even if you’re the life of the party, or the winning King or Queen (the central throne seats, which include champagne, caviar, and a key role in deciding the number of shots imbibed by the lead actor, are auctioned off at the beginning of the evening).

Tim Haber. Photo courtesy of the company.

But along with all of the intoxicated revelry (the emphasis is definitely on the titular “Drunk”), there are also some amazing feats of memory (one player – Josh Hyman, at the performance I attended – meets and greets every member of the audience when seated, and recalls every single name throughout the entire show), witty improv comedy, clever references to current pop culture, and an impressive delivery of Shakespeare’s famous soliloquies by the heavily inebriated lead (Tim Haber was the evening’s Macbeth, but was also called on to perform Marc Antony’s well-known eulogy “Friends, Romans, countrymen” from Julius Caesar), all in the context of a very zany, loose, and freely condensed version of the Scottish play – or should I say their Scottish-ish play?

While the wild mash-up of Drunk Shakespeare was far from textbook Macbeth, it did follow the essential plot points and characters (the weird sisters, porter, and ghost were all there), and infused them with a post-modern substance-abusing sexually-obsessed sense of humor (and a full-cast finale of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”) that kept the audience from around the world screaming. And drinking. Did I mention that craft cocktails are available during the show?

Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes, without intermission.

Drunk Shakespeare plays an open-ended run at The Lounge – 711 Seventh Avenue, 2nd floor, NYC. For tickets, purchase them online.


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