Three Day Hangover, a theatre company known for its alcohol-fueled productions of Shakespearean plays, tackles a new playwright in the second production of its 2014 season: Anton Fucking Chekhov.
Renaming Chekhov’s classic drama Uncle Vanya to Drunkle Vanya is one strong indicator that Three Day Hangover does not do subtle. Staging the production in The Gin Mill, an Upper West Side tavern, is another one. And if you still didn’t know what you were getting into by the title and the location, ushers will be happy to remind you with complementary shots at the door.
Unlike previous forays into boozy Shakespeare (where I have working knowledge of both drinking games and English Renaissance drama), boozy Chekhov provided new challenges: I have never read or seen Uncle Vanya, nor have I ever played the game featured in Drunkle Vanya: Cards Against Humanity. Still, armed with glasses of white wine, I bravely took my seat (a bar stool) and wondered how it would all turned out.
In one word: amazingly. Three Day Hangover knocks it out of the park (or bar) once again with Drunkle Vanya. Family dramas are one of my favorites, and Vanya certainly delivers. Vanya (Joel Rainwater) has to deal with his brother-in-law, The Professor (Sean Tarrant), coming to live in the estate that Vanya and his niece Sonya (Leah Walsh) have maintained for years. Accompanying him is his new wife, Yelena (Amanda Sykes), who Vanya is instantly attracted to, though Yelena makes a connection with Astrov (David Hudson), Vanya’s friend (and object of Sonya’s infatuation). If that chain of unrequited attraction wasn’t enough, the play also includes Vanya’s depression, Yelena’s dissatisfaction with her marriage, and the overall loser-hood of Waffles (Josh Sauerman), who works on Vanya’s estate and is pretty much the Gretchen Wieners of the group.
Cards Against Humanity provides an excellent counterpoint to the filial madness. Of course, like the rest of the show, it is an adaptation of the game, with the audience taking the role of the actual cards. During the pre-show, audience members are given a name tag that resembles a card. At certain moments in the show, the cast members say one of their lines with a “blank” at the end, and the cast members call out “family meeting,” selecting their favorite cards in the audience and having a mini-round of Cards Against Humanity. The actor with the line picks his favorite “card,” and the winning audience member wins a shot (which he or she must take immediately, of course).
While the “family game night gone terribly awry” had other fun additions (an impromptu game of Twister, the Bros Icing Bros meme starring actual Smirnoff Ices), the best part of Drunkle Vanya, as with many Three Day Hangover productions, is the actual play itself. Lori Wolter Hudson does an impeccable job of adapting Vanya while also maintaining the dramatic heart of the piece. Her direction is just as strong, as the actors create interesting and varied pictures in the small bar playing space.
While my Chekhov game isn’t as strong as my flip cup game, Drunkle Vanya has given me an excellent first lesson. And a hankering for some vodka.