Three Day Hangover is an amazing theater company of super talented actors, singers, musicians and other performing arts professionals whose innovative brilliance is bringing Shakespeare to audiences in the way it was meant to be performed: interactively, joyfully, soulfully, immersively.
Back in the day, Shakespeare’s audiences were a part of the show. They would bring their drinks and their lunch and if the performers weren’t up to snuff, they would chuck cabbages, onions or other stuff at the stinky actors. The audience was raucous and outrageous and got into the action heartily. The groundlings, especially, were there to have screaming fun and laugh at the bawdy comedy or tear up when their favorite actors came to a tragic end. It was affordable “democratic” theater for all and it was a pleasurable, uplifting frolic that rich and poor enjoyed together.
That is the intent of Three Day Hangover’s Shakespearean productions, which take place in unusual and unexpected venues, like NYC bars and watering holes. With spot-on acting of Shakespeare and other classics, (Chekhov), innovative staging (wonderful use of space, no proscenium or invisible fourth wall), and direction, the performers bring their incisive understanding of the Bard’s language to his nuanced plots and themes. All is in the service of opening our eyes to a Shakespearean universe you never imagined might be possible. It is one that is exciting, accessible, hilarious and poignant; above all it is refreshing and visceral.
Only in existence for a year, Three Day Hangover has received raves, extended runs and sold-out performances. Understandably, they’ve garnered a wild and enthusiastic fan base. Many fans showed up March 30 at Rockwood Music Hall to celebrate the company’s kick-ass party, their “Big Boozy Benefit” (directed by Lori Wolter Hudson), which along with their Kickstarter campaign is raising a chunk of change to fund their 2014 season.
The show rocked out with super hits from past productions (The Hamlet Project and Romeo and Juliet), and tempting tidbits for the upcoming season. Two-time Emmy-Award winning star Michael Emerson gave an impeccable rendition of Hamlet’s “To Be or Not To Be” speech and whacked the robot when he concluded by taking out his cell phone to answer a call from Ophelia (the dialogue is in the play and Emerson’s action was hysterically appropriate, or as the Brits say, “gobsmacking”). From last year’s R & J Star-Cross’d Death Match, John Behlmann (Romeo) and January LaVoy (Mercutio) leveled each other and the audience performing the Mercutio-Romeo Rap Battle. David Hudson supplied the beats/music/rhythms.
Beyond Measure is Three Day Hangover’s rock-musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s Measure for Meaure by Phil Pickens, Raife Baker and Lori Wolter Hudson, part of the 2014 season. It is one of the Shakespearean offerings along with Twelfth Night which promise to be two mega-fun, brilliantly conceived, interactive events with surprises, raffles, and alcohol-juiced laughter. One tuneful creation by the trio is Beyond Measure‘s “Blood is Blood,” which Stephen Plunkett sang as a soulful ballad. Nicole Lewis and Allison Guinn sang another lovely song from Beyond Measure, “To Whom Should I Complain?” Kelli Giddish raised the roof with audience laughter at “Mariana’s Lament,” in which Mariana complains about her lover and with wry humor says in refrain, “He’s a F*&#ER.”
As a tasty tidbit of what’s in store with Uncle Vanya, Liv Rooth enacted a tipsy, adorable Yelena describing her boring life upstate on the farm. She played “Cards Against Humanity” with audience members, who during this segment and various other breaks in the show took away door prizes like step dancing classes for four, a spa visit, a physical training session and free tickets to the 2014 productions. Jenny Mudge gave the audience a taste of the company’s Twelfth Night with the clever and beautiful song, “A Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Nick Choksi, Frankie J. Alvarez, Chad Goodridge, Autumn Hurlbert, Rob Morrison, Lauren Molina, Greg Hildreth were other performers who sang musical numbers from the upcoming season showdown.
The 2014 season will also include a never-before-seen, Two-for-One Shakespeare mash-up which you’ll just have to experience with your friends as you chug down a few and get raucous like the groundlings from Shakespeare’s time. If the authentic audience reaction of crazy, interactive exuberance demonstrated at this “Boozy Benefit” or the songs performed are any indication of what’s in store, I’ll be prophetic: There will be more raves, more extensions and more sold-out performances of the Three Day Hangover productions Beyond Measure, Twelfth Night and Uncle Vanya. And you never know; there may even be a push into Obie or Drama Desk land. This theater company is certainly creating an electric, thrilling and not-to-be-missed new wave of theater.