three day hangover

“Hank V” is a Victory for Shakespeare Lovers and Newbies Alike

We’ve been huge fans of Three Day Hangover‘s boozy adaptations of Shakespearean classics, with a little Chekhov thrown in the mix, ever since The Hamlet Project debuted two years ago.  Seriously… we wrote them a love letter. This is a theater company that insures an extraordinarily fun night while modernizing and honoring the play text with great joy and success than your average Shakespeare production. Now they’re closing off the 2014-15 season with Hank V, their first history play.

Adapted by Lori Wolter Hudson and Beth Gardiner, Hank V reworks Henry V using only two characters: Henry–or Hank (Three Day Hangover co-founder David Hudson)– and Falstaff (Christopher Ryan Grant), possibly the most famous comedic character in literary history. Henry V is the final play in a tetralogy that begins with the usurpation of Richard II at the hands of Henry IV, our Henry’s father. Henry V is an unlikely king (he’s a drunk and fun-loving youth in the middle plays) but ends the saga as one of the most heroic and beloved monarchs in English history. If you haven’t read a lick of Shakespeare, never fear! Hank and Falstaff provide the sparknotes version to any information you might need to know.

David Hudson and Christopher Ryan Grant in Hank V. Photo by Lloyd Mulvey
David Hudson and Christopher Ryan Grant in Hank V. Photo by Britannie Bond

After a modern verse prologue which depicts Falstaff and Henry’s rowdy, college-bro friendship, we  receive word that Henry’s father has passed, and in true meta form, Falstaff and Henry decide to act out Henry V. Falstaff doesn’t actually appear in Henry V; he’s dead by Act II, betrayed by the loss of Henry’s friendship as the young king assumes his royal duty. But here in Hank V, Falstaff serves the purpose of not only playing all the minor characters but also guiding Henry through his radically new role as king and commander.

As per Three Day Hangover’s approach, the play takes on a boozy transformation. The Stumble Inn (the Upper East Side bar serves as our “kingdom  for a stage.” Audience participators receive free shots as their death sentence and a map of England and France reflects conquered cities with coordinating solo cups. There’s beer pong pre-show that is excellent preparation for the final St. Crispin’s Day Battle, a massive beer pong free-for-all.  There’s also plenty of humor to go around: Falstaff and Hank improvise their way through costumes and props to hilarious effect. The camaraderie (maybe even chemistry in the Katherine scenes?) between Grant and Hudson makes for laugh-a-minute momentum and perfectly embodies the relationship between two old friends. 

The thing is, none of this shtick ever feels forced. These productions are so deft at incorporating drinking games, pop culture, and comedy into the original text. They move fluidly from modern lingo into Shakespearean verse with hardly a beat, and then back into a dance party with your favorite 80’s pop song. Three Day Hangover shows just how much of a living, breathing text this classic play can be, and then go about rejuvenating them with their special brand of (alcoholic) elixir.

Photo by Lloyd Mulvey
Photo by Britannie Bond

And if it’s not clear how much of a blast we had at Hank V, we’ve saved our happiest report for last. Including Falstaff into Henry V’s journey as new king is one of the most brilliant adaptive measures ever. Shakespeare’s the man and all, but the history plays can be a bit stodgy at times. The battle preparations and political schemes and war scenes can overrun a play like Henry V, causing it to skimp on the characters and relationships. What Three Day Hangover have effectively done is take one of the greatest literary friendships of all time and extend it into the most trying and difficult time of Henry’s life. It makes his transition into king all the more poignant and so much more human. In Henry V, we are introduced to Henry as an already coronated king and a budding leader. In Hank V, we are still drinking up with the young prince who now has an entire country to rule over and a war to win. Falstaff is the stabilizing force in Hank’s life, and watching them pass through Hank’s trials together, with Falstaff inevitably fading out of them, after all the drinking and debauchery, makes for such wistful and intimate moments.

Three Day Hangover’s Hank V plays at The Stumble Inn through March 1. Tickets Here. Do it.

Three Day Hangover’s “Drunkle Vanya” Brings Boozy Chekhov to The Gin Mill

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.

The middle name may have been fictional. But based on this portrait, totally appropriate.

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.

Josh Sauerman as Waffles - Photo by Lloyd Mulvey
Sorry, Waffles. (Josh Sauerman as Waffles – Photo by Lloyd Mulvey)

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).

Unfortunately for this blogger, my card was too close to the show's subject matter (and my social life) to be chosen.
Unfortunately for this blogger, my card was too close to the show’s subject matter (and my social life) to be chosen.

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.

Sonya (Leah Walsh) and Vanya (Joel Rainwater) - Photo by Lloyd Mulvey
Sonya (Leah Walsh) and Vanya (Joel Rainwater) – Photo by Lloyd Mulvey

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.

Three Day Hangover Turns Illyria Into a Midtown Cabaret

Three Day Hangover opens its 2014 season with another refreshing and boozy take on a classic Shakespeare play. They’ve already figured out how to turn Hamlet into a Brooklyn hipster and how to turn the Capulet/Montague feud into a game of beer pong, adapting both with energetic and creative fidelity to Shakespeare’s timeless works. Now, Twelfth Night is transformed into Sir Toby’s Lonely Hearts Club Cabaret, adapted and directed by Beth Gardiner. Here, we lovesick New Yorkers are treated to the antics of the lonely-hearted bar staff of Illyria. The third floor of McGee’s substitutes for the original mysterious island where a set of fraternal twins, Viola and Sebastian (Laura Gragtmans and Blake Segal), fatefully land after a shipwreck leaves each thinking the other dead. Viola disguises herself as a man and finds employment as a barkeep under Duke Orsino’s (Lloyd Mulvey) management. Viola soon comes to love Orsino, who pines after bar-frequenter (and co-owner?) Olivia (Amanda Sykes), who falls for Viola’s romantic gestures on behalf of her master. With live-band Rockstar Karaoke at their side, they take frequent opportunities to express their complex Shakespearean feelings through karaoke pop hits, including songs from The Proclaimers, Michael Jackson, and Lady Gaga.

The Cast of Twelfth Night or Sir Toby's Lonely Hearts Club Cabaret. Photo by Lloyd Mulvey.
The Cast of Twelfth Night or Sir Toby’s Lonely Hearts Club Cabaret. Photo by Lloyd Mulvey.

Running the show is Sir Toby Belch, played by a charismatic Colleen Harris, at the microphone. Sir Toby’s role in the adaptation is essential– her running commentary enables the play to run fluidly without losing any audience members who are not familiar with the original. One of the many great things about Three Day Hangover’s productions is how it uses the original text as a launching point for creating something truly accessible and contemporary. Here, for example, Viola and Sebastian’s joy at finding one another again feels so tangible and joyous, and after their dialogue together, it’s only fair for them to express their happiness via Cyndi Lauper. All of the characters’ song choices fit in the plot so naturally, we hardly feel the seamless transition between dialogue and karaoke. Are we muddling Shakespeare’s timeless and poetic words with pop lyrics, tainting the original’s classic essence? I’d say no. And I think Three Day Hangover would say, who the fuck cares?

Laura Gragtmans as Viola
Laura Gragtmans as Viola

As the plot unfolds, the play is intermittently halted by a few of Sir Toby’s antics, some of which worked and some that didn’t. A drinking of “That’s What She Said” in which the audience rings a bell on the table every time a line with sexual interpretations was said led to hilarious results. It worked well in channeling our dirty minds with attentive focus on the words of the play. This best of all worked in creating a happy and dynamic crowd energy. There were times however, when interrupting the play to get an audience member to sing karaoke or to read a few ‘missed connections’ listings on Craigslist felt gimmicky and distracting. I also think that the play’s energy suffered greatly from Three Day Hangover’s new move to McGee’s. Their last season was hosted at Harley’s Smokeshack, now Quinn’s Bar and Grill, whose top floor was a larger and far more versatile space. Actors had pool tables and benches and fire escapes at their creative usage, and audience members were free to move about and follow the action. McGee’s only affords a long, narrow seating area–not very conducive to performance staging. I felt like the actors were struggling to shift around the space, which limited them very noticeably. Also, I know cabarets are usually seated affairs with table service, but this traditional seating arrangement gave the production kind of disconnected, static, and affected atmosphere. Towards the end of the play, I felt the energy drop low, kind of like the way I have felt at dinner theater shows, a kind of false and only half-engagement with the work being presented before you.

Wonderfully acted and creatively re-envisioned, Twelfth Night has all the fun of happy hour at a world-class karaoke bar, but stumbles a bit distractedly away from providing us with an exciting, thoughtful, and reinvigorated adaptation like those we’ve come to expect from this company. Twelfth Night or Sit Toby’s Lonely Hearts Club Cabaret plays though June 30 at McGee’s. Tickets are only $15, you guys.



LMezz Interviews Kelli Giddish!

Shakespeare? Check. Booze? Check. A lifetime of repressed emotions only now coming to light because you’re pretty fricking tipsy and the bard’s words are hitting you in your hearthome? Well, that depends. Go to Three Day Hangover’s Kickstarter page asap to learn more about their 2014 season, ways you can donate, and scoring a season pass! And if last Sunday’s Big Boozy Benefit is a hint of what’s to come, get thee to that website!

The company brought in some heavy-hitters on Sunday. Greg Hildreth opened the night with a song from their rock musical, Beyond Measure, an adaptation of Measure for Measure. Michael Emerson performed Hamlet’s ‘To Be Or Not To Be” soliloquy. There was a ‘Crimes Against Humanity’ spin on Uncle Vanya, a rap battle between Romeo and Mercutio, and plenty of other thrilling, bourbon-soaked performances.

Among the lineup was Kelli Giddish, Law and Order: SVU‘s latest badass detective. Fun Fact: Kelli’s uber-cool. We met her in the audience of R+J: Star-Cross’d Death Match, and she was such a blast to enjoy the show with. Also, this Southern girl has a great set of pipes and rhymes “motherfucker” with “motherfucker” with suave effortlessness. Another Fun Fact? She touched my hair. I think that makes us BFFs.

Kelli Giddish sings 'Mariana's Lament' from "Beyond Measure"
Kelli Giddish sings ‘Mariana’s Lament’ from “Beyond Measure”

LM: Drink of Choice?
KG: Lemon-lime soda.


LM: Which Shakespearean character would you most like to party with and why?
KG: Falstaff– he’s kind of like the Hunter S. Thompson of Shakespeare.


LM: What’s your hangover cure?
KG: My dog, a little love, and the park.


LM: What kind of drunk are you?
KG: Love-drunk
LM: What drew you to Three Day Hangover’s Big Boozy Benefit?
KG: Because I hate Shakespeare because I never got it! Because I never get the dick jokes, you know? But when I’m with them (Three Day Hangover) I get it! I finally get the dick jokes!

LMezz Interviews John Behlmann!

If you haven’t already heard of Three Day Hangover, you best be getting on the Shakespeare train. Three Day Hangover’s shows have been highlights of the 2013-2014 theatrical year, as they devise awesome ways to present you with a refreshing and insightful production before you drunk-text that friend you’ve always harbored feelings about.


January Lavoy and John Behlmann Perform a Rap Battle from R+J: Star-Cross'd Death Match
January Lavoy and John Behlmann Perform a Rap Battle from R+J: Star-Cross’d Death Match

They had their Big Boozy Benefit Dinner on Sunday to promote their new season (which you can learn more about and support at their Kickstarter page). Among the lineup for the dinner was John Behlmann, star of The 39 Steps (a brief obsession of mine in senior year of college) and last year’s amazing burlesque Eager to Lose at Ars Nova. And whaddaya know, Behlmann is also a trapeze performer, a rapper, and an all-around Prince Charming talented guy. We got to ask him about booze and Shakespeare.

LM: Drink of Choice?
JB: Bourbon on the rocks.


LM: Which Shakespearean character would you most like to party with and why?
JB: Definitely Falstaff, no question! Because he’s known for the party and his drinking. He wakes up, drinks, goes to sleep, and wakes up to do it all over again.


LM: What’s your hangover cure?
JB: Lots of sleep and some breakfast sandwiches with bacon and hot sauce.


LM: What kind of drunk are you?
JB: I’m like the attention-seeking, loud one. Like an overeager puppy
LM: No trapezing while drunk?
JB: Um. I would never suggest it.


LM: What drew you to Three Day Hangover’s Big Boozy Benefit?
JB: It’s all about the people. I respect the people and I get to work with people I know and who do great work. I got to see their production of “R+J: Star-Cross’d Death Match” and it was so great! Plus, I get to rap here, which is something I don’t always get to do.

LMezz Interviews Greg Hildreth!

We’re still basking in the glory from Sunday night’s Big Boozy Benefit for Three Day Hangover’s 2014 season. For the uninitiated, Three Day Hangover is a new theater company that combines drinking and Shakespeare in only the best and smartest ways. There’s no better way to feel like a badass than to be three drinks into the night and have a totally modern and reinvigorated love for that classy bard.

Among the line-up for the benefit was Greg Hildreth, who has appeared on Broadway in Peter and the Starcatcher and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, and he’s a hilarious Youtube enthusiast. We’re big stalkers fans and jumped at the chance to interview him about all things drinking and Shakespeare…y’know… the important stuff.

Greg Hildreth and Company Perform 'Vienna Sucks' from "Beyond Measure," a rock musical adaptation of "Measure for Measure"
Greg Hildreth and Company Perform ‘Vienna Sucks’ from “Beyond Measure,” a rock musical adaptation of “Measure for Measure”


LM: Drink of Choice?
GH: Bulleit bourbon on the rocks.


LM: Which Shakespearean character would you most like to party with and why?
GH: Falstaff! I feel like we are the most similar. We are both loud, big guys who love to drink.


LM: What’s your hangover cure?
GH: Okay. Cooked eggs. Some coconut water. And a hair of the dog like a Bloody Mary.


LM: What kind of drunk are you?
GH: I’m a happy, fun drunk. The kind that likes to go karaoke at 2am.
LM: Follow-up then, what’s your go-to karaoke song?
GH: Anything Billy Joel.


LM: What drew you to Three Day Hangover’s Big Boozy Benefit?
GH: I think it’s really important to expose more people to Shakespeare, which is really what Three Day Hangover does best. Especially exposing drunk people to Shakespeare.


Look forward to Three Day Hangover’s 2014 season, which will include boozy productions of Twelfth Night, Uncle Vanya, and a TBA Two-For-One Shakespeare extravaganza! Learn more about the lineup, ways to support and get super awesome season passes at their Kickstarter page!

A Love Letter to Three Day Hangover

Dear Three Day Hangover,

You are one of my favorite new theatre companies. My love for you occurred at first sight, when I witnessed your debauched drinking game treatment of Denmark’s most troubled prince in The Hamlet ProjectThe romance only continued to heat up in your boozy adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, which envisioned Capulets and Montagues battling with flip cup and rap disses.

And now, I can profess my undying love for you after attending last night’s Big Boozy Benefit at Rockwood Music Hall. Your venue choice was impeccable, with an intimate performance spaceand a plentiful bar. Your set list was dazzling: not only did you give us highlights from the past season, but you also showed the other kinds of inebriated awesome you’re going to have in your 2014 season. With Rocky’s Jenny Mudge singing “Total Eclipse of the Heart” as Viola in Twelfth Night and Liv Rooth as Yelena from Uncle Vanya playing Cards Against Humanity with audience members, I got more than psyched to see your upcoming productions.

Michael Emerson
Oh, and Michael Emerson performed Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be…” monologue. No big deal. (Photo by Ahron R. Foster)

But the best part of the night was seeing I wasn’t the only one who loved you. The whole New York theatre community has hearts in their eyes for you. Broadway performers and television stars gave their talents to you, taking the stage with your brilliant material. Actors and collaborators in your previous productions were drinking and cheering in the audience. And everyone involved got to share in the joyous revelry that is Three Day Hangover.

Cheers to a spectacular 2014 season!

Love, Norma

P.S. For those who missed the benefit (or attended and are still crazy generous), you can donate to Three Day Hangover’s Kickstarter for a “Freaking Awesome 2014 Season” here.
P.P.S. We’re not done loving Three Day Hangover. Stay tuned for upcoming posts, where we interview some of the Big Boozy Benefit’s guest performers.


‘R & J: Star Cross’d Death’ Match Brings Flip Cups and Catharsis Under One Roof (and Sidewalk))

“This isn’t your grandmother’s Shakespeare,” producer, actor, and Flip Master David Hudson announces at the start of the show. He’s right. Neither is it much like the two adaptations of Romeo and Juliet currently playing simultaneously (one on Broadway starring Orlando Bloom, the other from Classic Stages with Elizabeth Olsen), nor like the upcoming Hollywood release.

For some reason, everyone’s freshman-year required reading is a hot commodity right now, but I’d bet none of these big-budget productions gets as fresh a take on the Bard as Three Day Hangover, the acting company behind last month’s The Hamlet Project and now, R&J: Star Cross’d Death Match.

The selling point for both of those productions was the chance to get your boozy Shakespeare on. Hosted on the top level of what was once Harley’s Smokeshack, an event space with a full bar, the shows feature drinking games, audience participation (which usually involve some sort of drinking as a reward/punishment), and several rounds of flip cup. If you have followed through with the company’s boozy encouragements, you should have a drink or two under your belt by intermission.

But alcohol isn’t the only thing ‘Three Day Hangover’ brings to their Shakespearean productions. This company knows how to have fun, but they also know how to re-envision these classic plays for a contemporary audience. What results is a theatrical experience that is alternately silly and poignant, fun and dramatic.

Take the famous balcony scene, for example. In R&J, the audience stands, for the most part, and follows the actors (headed by Nick Mills and Suzy Jane Hunt) around the room wherever the action is. The room goes dark and a light shines on Juliet (Hunt) sitting by a window, as she beautifully recites her “What’s in a name?” monologue. All of a sudden, Romeo calls out to her… and he’s actually down below on the motherflippin’ sidewalk! Audience members who have probably scored a one-on-one in Sleep No More were smart enough to keep tabs on Romeo in the dark followed him out and get to witness a true balcony scene from below, as oblivious New Yorkers walk past in confusion. Mills and Hunt capture R&J’s giddy love perfectly and though they’re not teenagers like their characters, their performances are youthful, exciting, unpredictable, and realistic.

Nick Mills and Suzy Jane Hunt
Nick Mills and Suzy Jane Hunt

The show also captures these elemental strengths in the rest of the production. One way is by ‘updating’ some of Shakespeare’s language, dispersing contemporary references and lingo into the play. My personal favorite example of this comes from The Hamlet Project, where Rosencrantz and Guildenstern ask, “What do you read, my lord?” and Hamlet responds, “Words, words, ‘words with friends.'” For R&J, this means plentiful uses of “homie,” “oh my god,” and other phrases you’d find in a public high school. Modern updates on old language forms might become annoying, but R&J’s incorporation of such language is always used with discretion to sometimes comedic, often emotional effect. R&J also uses pop music interludes to highlight certain scenes to fun effect, most notably the song that comes after R&J have sex for the first time (to name it would spoil it).

The Cast of R&J
The Cast of R&J

R&J does drama too, and there’s obviously plenty of it in Shakespeare. One of my favorite scenes comes right after Romeo is banished. This production cleverly takes two separate scenes (one in which Juliet reacts to the banishment with her nurse, the other in which Romeo talks with the Friar) and simultaneously enacts them, recreating the emotional chaos disrupting the lovers’ newlywed bliss. It’s powerful, and it takes liberties that no Broadway production, Off-Broadway production, or film, could probably ever get away with.

R&J plays through October 4 at what was once Harley’s Smokeshack, 356 W. 44th Street.

Contemporary Shakespeare: “OT” and “The HAMLET Project”

William Shakespeare may have lived and died centuries ago, but artists continue to find new ways to present his work to contemporary audiences. Here are two projects that work to reinvent the Bard’s classics:


British spoken word artist Charlie Dupré released a music video retelling of Othello earlier this month. The piece is part of his ongoing project, “The Stories of Shakey P,” a collection of Shakespeare plays retold as rap songs. “OT” does a good job of breaking down Othello in a succinct, entertaining way, while also making it specific to contemporary British youth. The song also has a chorus reminiscent of Dido’s verses in “Stan”—sad, evocative, and crazy catchy.

To drink, or not to drink: That’s not a question.


The appropriately named Three Day Hangover is making Shakespeare a part of New York City nightlife with its highly energized bar-themed productions of the Bard’s plays. The HAMLET Project, which had a summer run at Harley’s Smokeshack, advertises itself as a “Shakespeare drinking theatrical event.” And boy, does it deliver. Cast members, armed with noisemakers, alert the audience to take shots throughout the show. (One cue guaranteed to kill your sobriety is to take a drink whenever a character says the word “king.”) The cast isn’t spared, either. Whenever a character dies, a bonus game called “Heaven or Hell” ensues, where the audience votes whether a deceased character goes to heaven (a shot of whiskey) or hell (a cup of boxed wine). At the performance I attended, only the actor playing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern visited heaven’s gates.

Hamlet and company might drop more f-bombs than Shakespeare ever intended, and die-hard Shakespeare purists may not be pleased with Three Day Hangover’s liberal treatment of the text. Though it was on the irreverent side, many scenes still kept their dramatic gravity. The ghost scenes, in particular, were some of the best I’ve ever seen in a production of Hamlet (the ghost taking on the form of a homeless man notwithstanding).

Their next show, a treatment on Romeo and Juliet titled The R+J Experience: Star-Cross’d Death Match, premieres tonight at Harley’s Smokeshack—and I will definitely be attending. For more information, check out Three Day Hangover’s website.

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