Inebriated Shakespeare: a Theatre on Fire(ball)
Ever gone to a play, and thought to yourself, “this would be so much better if I were drunk”? As an (ex) theatre person, I often find myself thinking, “this would be so much better if the actors were drunk.” Apparently, Nashville’s own has had the same thought. Their most recent production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) offered a special, two night only treat…INEBRIATED Shakespeare. (Drunk, y’all. That means, drunk.)
“How does that work? Shakespeare can’t be drunk, he’s dead.” I can hear you saying, because for the purposes of this article, we’re pretending you all care about Shakespeare as much as I do…just go with it. Well, dear reader, what it means is that I got to witness the realization of every actor’s secret dream/nightmare! Drunk actors, drunk-acting the multiverse of Shakespeare. About fifteen minutes before curtain, the three amazing, and brave performers, Asa Ambrister, Robert Coles, and Angela Gimlin, gathered on stage to draw lots. The night I attended, the stalwart Angela got the short straw, and was forced to take five shots of Fireball Whiskey before the show even began. “Weeeeeaaaaak,” I hear you saying, “That’s 3pm on a Tuesday in my world.” Well, friend, it didn’t end there. During the course of the 90 minute production, audience members could purchase shots for any of the performers, upon which the lovely stage manager would stop the show and administer shots, like punches to the proverbial groin.
So, full disclosure; I have seen …Complete Works… before, and I hated it. It could have been me being all stuffy and un-funny, like I do, or maybe it was immature actors trying too hard. Perhaps it was a bit of both, but I really didn’t like it. I was sort of excited to see it done again, and soused. I was pretty sure that nothing could save it but some special sauce. I was wrong. All it needed was three seasoned comedic (and improvisational) actors who know each other well enough to wing it when they must. It needed Robby, Angela, and Asa.
The show began without a slur, but also without missing a beat. This trio made Shakespeare understandable, side-splitting, and clever before the whiskey even took hold. Asa Ambrister’s frantic and flouncy “pre-imminent Shakespeare scholar,” opened the show with gusto. The audience was on board from jump, and most of us (most of us) hadn’t even started drinking yet. It was a BYOB event, complete with an audience drinking game handily printed in the program. Actors never like to suffer alone. We quickly ran through Romeo and Juliet, and the first of several repeat gags; drag, more drag, some violent fake vomiting, and some truly inspired “feminine” giggles and screams, (way to really punch that B, Robby. “BAAAHHHHHHHHH.”) all of which should have gotten old, but never did. All three performers were forced to take their medicine numerous times during the first act, but Angela… Poooooooor Angela. They said they cut her off at 12, but I still swear that I counted 15. It was somewhere during Titus Andronicus as a cooking show (which, in and of itself was hilarity with a side of noggin pie and nubbins) that we started to lose her. While kneeling in front of Asa, waiting for her line, she started to aimlessly draw on his shirt with flour. That’s how it began, but it quickly devolved into much giggling, so many goosings of Asa, and threatenings of the audience with violence (in an adorable way), falling during costume changes, and spontaneous bouts of cussing. I believe Robby broke his finger. I was pretty sure Asa was going to chunk his cookies at one point (Asa doesn’t drink). And I think, although I cannot corroborate, that one, or all three of the cast members may have ended up going home with “Lillian,” an audience member with whom they all became enamored. In short: It. Was. Freaking. Fantastic. Hands down, this was this most fun I have had at the theatre in years. Oh, I have missed theatre being fun. It all left me with little doubt that, even sadly sober, their version would have taken me to church and made me a convert. Incredibly well done, you three.
That leads me to the sad part of this humble review. “Where can I see this masterpiece of befuddled tomfoolery?” I hear you imploring. Alas, poor reader, I have no happy answer for you. The show, ah…the show does not go on. Inebriated Shakespeare closed the very night that I discovered it. Never again shall I hear Angela yell, “come at me!” while grabbing her boobs. Never again shall Asa’s Hamlet dissolve into fits of giggles. (I mean, unless he does some new, and very bizarre interpretation of Hamlet, which I would totally be okay with.) Never again shall Robert’s dulcet tones ring through the halls just before he pretends to puke in my lap. (See above, re: bizarre interpretation of Hamlet.) It’s a sad day, my friends. A sad day. And yet, there might be hope…
Dear Imaginary Theatre Company,
I don’t know if you caught my review of Inebriated Shakespeare for 4LN? Let’s just say that I loved it. I am a fan. I want to bring all of my friends. But, as you know, it’s over. Curtain’s down. No more Fireball to be had. I’m bummed. My friends are bummed. Then I looked at . It’s a good season. So, I just thought that I would write you a polite letter to say; “OH MY GODS, YOU HAVE TO DO DRUNK STEEL MAGNOLIAS!! Seriously, you guys. Do it for the money. Do it for charity. Do it cause no one else has the lady balls to do something so crazy. Do it because, it would be effing hysterical. Look, I get it. Drama, and integrity. And, like, the height of very dramatic drama. People die, there’s lots of crying, it’s all very intense. But that’s the POINT! You should marinate that sadness in a handle of Wild Turkey, sell t-shirts that say “I got tanked with Ouiser Boudreaux,” and slices of armadillo cake at intermission, then give half of what you make to a charity for diabetes. Sure, I sound like an awesome philanthropist. Don’t get me wrong. I super love to give. But mostly I just want to see Drunk Magnolias. Drunk. Magnolias. BOOM!
(Ps… I will be needing Robby to play Annelle, and Asa to play Clairee. I am assuming Angela will be playing everyone else, because she’s fabulous.)
(Editor’s Note: This article was written by Melody Dobbins. In addition to being a supermom, and theater nerd, and, like, a REALLY good writer, Melody also runs her own business, Milk & Magpie Naturals.)