A Drinking Game at Molly Malone's: Actors Perform Live Readings of Classic Movies. While Drinking. Chaos Ensues.
|Brett Schlank, left, Natalie Lynch and & Tara Jayn, producers of A Drinking Game|
Never let it be said that the actors in A Drinking Game refused to suffer for their craft. A live reading of classic movies turned interactive drinking game, the monthly production features actors sitting on folding chairs on a minimal, setless stage with their scripts ... and their booze.
They take a swig each time certain words are spoken -- say, "school," "car" or "sick" -- and each time their character's name is called. There's no secretly spitting the beer back into the bottle, or feigning sips or substituting water instead. This is serious, Method acting.
Founder Natalie Lynch's poison of choice is Jack and Coke, while the rest of the cast prefer beer. Drink slowly, she advises. Take small sips. "It's a marathon, not a race."
As blood-alcohol level increases, it gets harder to read the script. Cognitive function, not to mention dramatic skill, declines. Lynch maintains that some actors, especially the more reserved and inhibited ones, do perform better when liquored up. Others just get liquored up.
"I do not act better when drunk," she admits, a critical assessment borne out in video documentation. She has watched the footage afterward and been horrified by it. Her accent fades. Her mannerisms devolve into caricature. Nuance and subtlety disappear. "At a certain point, I'm not even in character anymore," she says. "I'm just me."
The turning point is usually after intermission, when suddenly all the alcohol kicks in. By then, it doesn't really matter, though. By then, the audience is throwing things. This is because the audience drinks, too.
Forget impolite little coughs or talking during the show. These guys heckle. They spill beer. They laugh too loudly. They yell. Occasionally, they vomit.
You might think that there'd be nothing worse for an actor than mayhem in the house. Not so in A Drinking Game. "Guys drunkenly yelling, 'We love you!' any other time would be unacceptable," Lynch says. "But in this case it's good."
What starts as a theatrical event turns into a frat party. Weird shit happens. During The Princess Bride, a sword fight broke out in the audience. During Ghostbusters, people lobbed marshmallows and sprayed each other with Silly String. During Ferris Bueller's Day Off, the entire theater got up and started dancing when the actor playing Ferris sang "Twist and Shout." During Back to the Future, the power went out around the entire block, right after the Libyans attack and Marty travels back in time. The actors did the rest of the performance in the dark, using cellphones for illumination. The show must go on.
For certain audience members, it really does go on ... and on and on and on. The few designated drivers and other teetotalers who pay for admission, Lynch says, are saints. "I don't know how they sit through it."
For a while, performances took place at the Next Stage theater in Hollywood. It was as good a venue as any. Not too highbrow, not so spick-and-span that you'd worry about puking on one of its 45 seats. Sure, you risked your neck climbing up a couple flights of stairs to get to the theater (sign that waiver, please!). Sure, guys occasionally pissed over the edge of the railing when they couldn't be bothered to wait in line for the restroom. But there was an IHOP downstairs, where the cast (and its adoring, inebriated fans) could convene after final curtain. They'd sober up and rehash the gory details over coffee and pancakes.
Eventually the Next Stage got too small to contain the growing crowd, so the organizers moved the event over to Molly Malone's bar. It is no longer BYOB. "But there's nothing to say you can't get a little tipsy ahead of time and then take very small sips as you play along," Lynch suggests.
When she isn't acting drunk, Lynch does sketch comedy and children's theater. Currently, she can be seen opposite Muffles the Penguin and Princess Happy in King of the Ice Cream Mountain, in which Lynch stars as the evil Zena, scourge and tormentor of King Bumpygruff. Ice Cream Mountain is staged on Saturday mornings, after which Lynch proceeds to Saturday-evening drinking-game shows. Sundays are filled with aspirin.
She sometimes feels wicked waving goodbye to the little kids as she heads out for a long night of Jack and Coke, she says on the phone one afternoon while shopping at Party City.
Lynch is picking up props for the upcoming Drinking Game production of Beetlejuice, with a shopping list that includes eyeballs, severed fingers, fake wedding rings, cheap plastic trophies for the costume contest and mini notebooks that will be transformed into Handbooks for the Recently Deceased.
"I love the interactive bit," she says. "I love the idea of giving the audience something they can play along with. Like, have you ever seen Blue Man Group? They hand out streamers, and people wear them as headbands or neckties. As soon as they do that, they decide they're going to participate. Their whole mentality changes. The show isn't just happening in front of them anymore. It's something they're part of. Suddenly they're goofy and not uptight."
Sounds lovely. But it's possible Lynch's opinions are colored by beer goggles. When they did Goonies, she was so drunk she couldn't even remember the end of the show. Recollections of the evening come back in pieces: "By the end of the show, not only are our sentences slurred, we're making bad judgment calls."
She vaguely remembers one actor ripping his entire script into shreds even though he still had lines.
The company mostly sticks to popular films from the 1980s -- raucous, irreverent stuff. (A Drinking Game: Leaving Las Vegas probably won't be coming soon to a theater near you.) The booze, nostalgia and camaraderie have made for a winning formula, and the show's fans, of whom there are 604 on Facebook, want more. In an effort to accommodate them, Lynch and her fellow thespians considered staging performances twice instead of once a month. Ultimately, however, they opted against that. Their reasons are both aesthetic and hepatic. "The cast will die," she explains. "Our livers couldn't take it."Follow @LAWeeklyArts on Twitter.