By Mary Boyle
For whatever reason, some people find Shakespeare intimidating. The antiquated language can feel overwhelming to them, or their perception of it is that it is "elite" or "high brow" - even (dare I say?) stuffy. The truth is, it's anything but; sharp wit, bawdy jokes, drunkenness, lewdness, bad puns, and innuendo can be found in abundance in the comedies, but even make their way into the tragedies. How, then, to convince skeptical audiences that Shakespeare is a really good time? Why, you add alcohol, of course!
Since 2015, the Bard & Bourbon Theatre Company has been performing fully staged Shakespearean productions with one (or two) seriously drunk actors. Their third season opened this weekend at the Tenth Street Theatre in Milwaukee with "Twelfth Night (Drunk)," and they are not kidding when they say that you've never seen Shakespeare like this.
"Twelfth Night" may already be one of Shakespeare's drunkest plays, with the beloved alcoholic, Sir Toby Belch, and his companion, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, well in their cups over the majority of the tale. One might assume, as I did, that those characters would be the ones chosen to actually be drunk for Bard & Bourbon's production, but not so! To be fair, they rotate the actors chosen to do shots over the run of the show, so no certain actor's liver is taking all of the punishment. Consequently, each performance is completely unique, somewhat unpredictable, and the exact opposite of stuffy. In fact, the theater itself creates a more accessible, casual environment: seating is open, feel free to wear jeans, and be prepared to cheer like you're at a college keg party every time an actor downs a shot. Drink, too, if you'd like (in fact, there are some cleverly named mixed drinks on the menu, such as "Sir Toby's Belch" and the "Illyria"), but the cookies and coffee were also quite satisfactory.
Directed by Dylan K. Sladky, "Twelfth Night (Drunk)" has a fun, vaudeville flair, and is most excellently cast. Brittany Curran was a very drunken Viola/Cesario when I saw her, as was her "twin," Keegan Siebken, as Sebastian. Brittany Boeche was simply amazing as Sir Toby Belch, and Brandon Herr was the perfect Sir Andrew. Adam Czaplewski was everything Malvolio is supposed to be, and Grace DeWolff and Maddie Wakley were brilliant as Feste and Maria, respectively. Ashley S. Jordan was an elegant Olivia; Joel Kopischke was great as Antonio, and Alexandra Pakalski was quite convincing as Duke Orsino. Keep an eye out for the floating cast member, Zachary Dean, who added a lot of fun to the production.
"Twelfth Night (Drunk)" runs through Sunday, September 3rd at the Tenth Street Theatre, located at 628 N. 10th Street in Milwaukee. Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $18, with discounts for students, seniors, artists, and military, as well as groups of 8 or more, and can be purchased online at https://www.bardandbourbon.com/current-production/ or at the door. To keep on top of their season, follow them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/pg/BardandBourbon/