I moderately enjoy plays. I moderately enjoy Shakespeare. I very enthusiastically enjoy drinking.
So naturally, I was incredibly excited to learn about Drunk Shakespeare — a show that combines all of these things into one very funny, loose, alcohol-soaked show. The small group of actors perform Macbeth (you know, the old-timey version of House of Cards). The thing is, they select one member of the troupe to take four shots of whiskey before the show starts, ensuring that the whole thing is bound to go off the rails. The audience is also encouraged to drink heavily, which you don’t have to ask me to do twice.
The play runs on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, so I bought tickets to a Saturday performance to ensure there could be maximum drinking and minimum regret.
The space is near Times Square and it’s small. It’s done up like a library, with a small area in the middle for the actors to perform. You’re cheerily greeted with a free shot and encouraged to hit up the bar, placed behind the books before heading to your table, where you can take advantage of the table service to continue drinking heavily during the play. The seating is cramped — tables are lodged firmly next to each other and you’re basically seated at a tiny table with strangers, as we initially were. “An opportunity to make friends!” I excitedly thought.
We sat down next to a couple at our assigned table and I promptly knocked her jacket off the chair. The look on her face assured me we would never be friends.
Of course, the fun really started when the actors came out to tell us about the opportunity to be king and queen of the play. They would hold an auction, and the highest bidder would get to sit in the big, comfy throne in front of everyone, wear crowns and enjoy champagne, caviar and chocolate. We’d also get the privilege of stopping the play when we wanted to make the actor (in our show, the guy playing Macbeth) take more shots. I’ve had plenty of experience with peer pressuring people to take shots in college. SOLD.
I had just chugged an IPA. I was feeling like a winner, or more specifically, like a queen. “Starting at 20! 30! 50! 70! 100!” I quickly raised my hand, determined to get my hands on this crown. My friend glared at me. This is probably because I do not have $100.
But, no matter! Everybody seemed to have reasonably decided $100 is a little too much for a bottle of champagne and a plastic crown, so my bid was accepted! I pranced to the throne, my rightful seat, away from all the grubby plebeians and their inconveniently placed jackets. They handed us crowns, champagne, and a bell, all while giving us instructions about how to use the “force this poor actor to die of alcohol poisoning in front of you” rule. I wasn’t listening. I was too distracted modeling my new crown.
The play is hilarious. There’s plenty of improvisation, pop culture references and sex jokes, so even if you’ve never read any Shakespeare, you’re guaranteed to laugh along and moderately understand the proceedings. I was very excited to give out shots, quickly interrupting Macbeth’s reunion with Lady Macbeth to assign a drink. This is how I found out I technically wasn’t allowed to just shout out in the middle of the play, and there was actually a bell next to me that I was supposed to gently ring, which is just astonishing because I’m the goddamn queen and I can speak whenever I’d like.
And he didn’t just take a shot. First, he had to complete some sort of challenge. His initial challenge was to do 20 pushups before a selected audience member finished chugging a beer. The loser had to reveal an embarrassing sexual fact about themselves. That’s the other great thing about the show — they get plenty of audience members involved. For example, Lady Macbeth let one older woman get up close and personal with her boobs. All participants were then rewarded with alcohol.
I quickly settled into life as the queen, waving my bottle of champagne and looking benevolently upon my subjects, as all the audience members yelled “FUCK YEAH, QUEEN BECCA!” every time I was mentioned in the play. This is why it was especially hard to take when Macbeth tried to pull me up to my dark fate: I was to be murdered. All the bell ringing in the world couldn’t save me from a madman hell bent on fulfilling a prophecy.
So while I didn’t get to survive the play, and lost my crown and bell powers, I did get to remain in the throne for the rest of the play, laughing as my friend (who was only the squire boy, because sorry dude, we can’t all be the center of attention) got ruthlessly mocked for looking like “the owner of a French bulldog.” He has a mustache and a plaid shirt and lives in Brooklyn. He basically IS a French bulldog. These actors knew their marks.
The final verdict? Obviously, go see this play!
The actors are amazing and are clearly having so much fun — they’re quick on their feet, both figuratively and literally. Even wasted, our Macbeth truly knew his Shakespeare. Plus, you can get pretty cheap tickets on Groupon. Getting drunk in a bar is what you do every Saturday, so why not try something different this weekend? You still get drunk, but while celebrating the greatest playwright of all time. And doesn’t that make it a little bit classier? Hopefully?