Don’t Hate the Players, Hate the Stage: Shit-Faced Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

One of the SGS: AMSND casts; Photo credit- Nile Scott Studio.

Presented by Shit-faced Shakespeare®
The Saturday night cast:
Compere (the host)- Tyler Rosati
Hermia- Elizabeth Hartford
Demetrius- Evan Turissini
Lysander- Sam Fidler
Helena- Grace Graham
Puck- Brett Milanowski
Lights and sound- Sarah Morin

Sept. 16 – Dec. 4 at 7PM
The Rockwell Theater
Davis Square
Somerville, MA
SFS social media: shitfacedshake; Sfacedshakespeare.us

Review by Kitty Drexel

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts…”

SOMERVILLE, Mass. — The premise of Shit-Faced Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night’s Dream is simple: there’s a cast of five actors performing an abridged version of Shakespeare’s play. One of them is very drunk. The drunk actor changes every performance, as does the cast. A mediator, the Compere (Tyler Rosati), opens the show and keeps the drunk person on task. 

Before the show, the Compere gives the audience three tools to make the performance more interesting. A gong and cowbell, when played, mandate that the drunkard must imbibe another drink. A bucket is employed when the drunkard has had too much. It assumed that the gong and bell are used once each but the trove of onstage beverages kept for this purpose held many more than two. A bucket-holder, bless them, will know if the bucket is needed more than once from the muffled sounds of discomfort echoing from the drunkard. 

To sum up, wildly, A Midsummer Night’s Dream goes like this: In an Athenian forest, four lovers argue about who gets to marry Helena (Grace Graham). No one wants to marry Hermia (Elizabeth Hartford). Puck (Brett Milanowski) uses his magical jizz-flower to trick Demetrius (Evan Turissini) and Lysander (Sam Fidler) into falling in love with the first person they see when they awake from their slumber. Mayhem ensues. There will be drinking. There might be vomit. Fingers crossed!

On Saturday night, the keepers on the gong and cowbell were reticent to use them. The gong clanged well into the show which forced the actors to actually perform Shakespeare as written because, while the drunkard was indeed drunk, the drunkard wasn’t drunk enough to forget his blocking or lines. 

Actors rehearse a memorized performance a lot. They over-rehearse to allow for unexpected scenarios and unfortunate mistakes that could pop up in performance. Actors will know their lines so well that a little thing like toxic inebriation won’t prevent them from repeating their lines to a willing audience. So long as that actor still likes the show they’re in, those lines will stay with them until the actor chooses to forget them. It’s the same with choreography, staging, and music. 

The good actors of Shit-Faced Shakespeare required the element of surprise to make their Saturday night performance unique. The gong and cowbell keepers selfishly withheld it. So the poor actors had to actually perform Shakespeare as written. Unsurprisingly, the audience members without a prop were unhappy. They didn’t laugh or hoot. They were silent because they wanted shenanigans. The drunkard wasn’t drunk enough to even slur much. Training, my dudes. 

The show finally gained momentum once Puck (Milanowski) rightly chastised the audience for not engaging with the performance. The gong was sounded shortly after and the drunkard drank a beer. He started slurring and that was enough to get the improv ball rolling. The cast received the feedback they craved and the show was saved.   

Again, if the audience doesn’t do its part, the cast can only perform Shakespeare as hard as they can. And they did. We were uncomfortable for about 20 – sober – minutes. 

The cast leaned into their lines because they aren’t supposed to mess up their lines on purpose. That would be cheating. Cheating at improv is worse than forcing undoctored Shakespeare on an unwilling audience. The cast made the right choice. The audience was solely to blame. We got the show we deserved. 

The Rockwell is indoors. Indoor theatre experiences aren’t as safe as outdoor experiences. If your immune system is sensitive or compromised, please be cautious. 

The Shit-Faced Shakespeare website statement on COVID-19 says, “We are excited to be partnering once again with The Rockwell Theater in Davis Square, Somerville who have upgraded their HVAC system.” Masks are required for all. Performing actors are the only people allowed to go without masks. Attendees may briefly lower their masks once seated to drink a beverage purchased from the bar. 

The website does say that patrons should wear their masks while seated to the degree they are most comfortable, but Boston attendees should note that this is not accurate. At the performance on Saturday, we were warned that, if caught not wearing our mask, Rosati would pee in our mouths after the first warning. Yellow shower facials may seem drastic to some. I choose to believe that Rosati was expressing their willingness to selflessly disinfect our airways lest COVID strike. You know, like a jellyfish sting but with an air-borne virus. That’s love.   

Respect is mandatory. Your attendance is voluntary. During the Saturday evening performance, there was a small group of friends who didn’t realize they were at the theatre. They talked through Compere’s opening monologue about The Rules and safety precautions. They were sloppy with their masks. Don’t be like them. 

Live theatre is a privilege. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is scripted improv but it’s still a performance. Generally speaking, an audience is there to watch, listen, and STFU until called upon. They want your laughter and your hoots. They don’t want you to reconnect with your college buddies over shots in the first row while Lysander and Helena pitch woo. If your dates (who are way too hot for you to act this worthless) can sit quietly as you yammer about how you “don’t get the dildo-laden flower arrangements,” you can too. 

Please know your limits. Shit-Faced Shakespeare is supposed to be light-hearted fun. This may not be the safest location for anyone with a sensitivity to alcohol. Your recovery is important, more important than attending Shakespeare improv.

Ticket, links, and discounts available at www.shit-facedshakespeare.us 

If you enjoyed this article, please consider making a donation. Every cent earned goes towards the upkeep and continuation of the New England Theatre Geek.

Comments are closed.