Presented by Magnificent Bastard Productions
Based on the play by William Shakespeare
Review by Travis Manni
(Somerville, MA) There’s nothing quite as dazzling as experiencing theatre, the Shakespearean kind no less, under the hazy glow of stage lights as a soft buzz starts to settle in. While I chose not to partake in the highly encouraged consumption of alcohol, I figured my flu-like-symptoms-inducing hangover was enough of a qualifier to get me in the mood for Magnificent Bastard Productions Shit-faced Shakespeare performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And to top it off, the entire audience had the privilege of playing witness to the company’s first ever sex-swapped show.
If you are unfamiliar with Shit-faced Shakespeare, it’s pretty simple. One cast member is randomly selected before the show to drink several alcohols and must drunkenly perform. Throughout the show itself, members of the audience can decide that the actor is not drunk enough and demand that the Compères (Lewis Ironside & Marge Dunn) provide another beverage for the drunk to drink during the scene’s debaucheries.
If you are also unfamiliar with Shakespeare’s classic rom-com, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it’s pretty straightforward. Royal couple Lysander (Liz Hartford; the drunkard of the evening) and Hermia (Tyler Rosati) are super in love, but Hermia has been promised to suitor Demetrius (Raisa Hoffman). The star-crossed pair escape to the woods to elope, followed closely by Demetrius, who intends to kill Lysander, and Helena (Cameron Cronin) who obsessively dotes on Demetrius. In the woods, the group falls victim to the love-inducing tricks of Puck (Sarah Gazdowicz), a conniving fairy.
As with any Shakespeare show, there are several plots going on at once, but for the sake of a one-hour production, this was the most interesting one to perform with a drunk actor.
Even though this was my first Shit-faced show, I knew going in that I would have a good time. While seeing someone drunkenly stumble around is quite pathetic to watch as a sober person, forcing said drunk to perform lyric lines from a Shakespeare show is guaranteed to be entertaining. Spoiler: I wasn’t disappointed.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the amount of improv the actors would have to perform. To keep the progress of the play in a forward motion, while also working around the drunken ramblings of their co-actor (who progressively went more and more off script and congratulated herself several times for remembering so many of her lines in between gulps of beer), every player on stage was forced to improvise at least once. All were quick and witty, creating a truly theatrical realm in which anything could happen. Also, reversing the gender of the actors who traditionally play the characters, while doing nothing to elevate the artistry of the show, further proved that Shit-faced Shakespeare is about the fluidity of theatre and engaging the audience in a good time. In the famous words of William Shakespeare himself, “Lol, gender is a societal construct anyways.”
Shit-faced Shakespeare is something that can be enjoyed by all Shakespeare fans. Also, if you are a fan of alcohol and theatre, you should see this show. It’s hilarious, unpredictable, and a clever gimmick well worth your time. You truly don’t know the playwright’s genius until you’ve seen a Shit-faced performance.
Shit-faced Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs for one hour with no intermission. The Shit-faced Shakespeare experience is constantly on tour, and a calendar of scheduled events can be found here.
Drinkest thou responsibly.
None of the actors or production staff in this performance were paid; 100 percent of the proceeds from this Shit-faced Shakespeare show were donated to The Trevor Project and the Cambridge Mayor’s Fire Relief Fund. If you can, please consider donating.
We have elected a tangerine ass-bugle bigot with scrawny hands, thin skin, and terrible hair to the office of the President. The theatre community has every reason to be scared that the national budget for the arts will be slashed. It will be. Certain republicans tend to disrespect experimental, avant-garde, or simply new art. If it challenges the white, straight, hetero status quo, they tend to be against it. New things frighten them with their difference. Belts will need to be tightened. For the love of all that’s sacred, keep creating your art despite this painful bullshit. If you need help, ask for it. Our existence is our resistance. Please keep fighting the good fight. – KD
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