The Chicago Drinking Play
Total Rating: 
open run (as of January 2015)
Theater Type: 
Regional, restaurant
The Public House
Theater Address: 
3914 North Clark Street
sketches & improv
Bye Bye Liver troupe

Just as any two coinciding activities can be turned into a competition—e.g., penny pitching, centipede racing—almost any fixed text can serve as the basis for synchronized consumption of intoxicating beverages. In 2006, Byron Hatfield's comedy troupe, finding their late-nite audiences at Gorilla Tango to be dominated by Bucktown hipsters coming off pub crawls, began incorporating drinking rituals into their sketches. Eight years and three locations later, the interactive revue dubbed Bye, Bye, Liver continues to draw crowds of thirsty pilgrims. Its present home at Lakeview's Public House (formerly known as Live Bait and Teatro Luna) boasts an in-house bar stocked with an array of firewaters, as well as non-alcoholic libations.

Given the potential for pandemonium engendered by the intimate mainstage quarters, the evening's festivities commence after a suitably smarmy emcee reconnoiters the outposts of birthday, bachelorette and office parties, followed by a brief orientation to the difference between the show on the stage and that transpiring at the tables.

It should come as no surprise that most of the scripted material addresses the theme of dating in bars; one episode replays a couple's anniversary tryst under the influence of various tipples. (Nota Bene: Beware of renewing your pledge with Jose Cuervo.) Another proposes a doorman who trains a naive nebbish in the fine points of clubworthy cool so that soon his pupil is jumping velvet ropes with the panache of a seasoned slickster.

The night's agenda also repeats some favorite sketches from the original revue, though anybody hoping for a glimpse of the legendary "Edward Forty-Hands" will be disappointed.

The games likewise remain within the capabilities of the players: A musical quiz, with categories listed under appropriately provocative labels, challenges the contestant to guess the title of a song after hearing only a few notes supplied by the stageside piano man (Tilliski Ramey on the night I attended), victory or loss determining whether the spectators join the winner in a bottoms-up before everyone sings the fatal chorus. Later tests of acuity-under-inebriation wisely demand less factual recall.

Even when the action spills into the room's farthest corners, the performers exercise impeccable control of their environment, so that the raucous revelry never descends into chaos. Running just a little over an hour, this brand of humor initially may seem geared exclusively to youngsters in the first blush of romance, but the inclusion of a Neil Diamond classic among the name-that-tune selections offers assurance that oldsters ready for some fun are welcome, too.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Date Reviewed: 
January 2015