'Shit-Faced Shakespeare' is a charming drunk

Lara Woolfson

Lara Woolfson

The idea that everything is funnier when you’re plastered is nothing new, but the collision of high culture and soused irreverence is now becoming a trend in branded entertainment. Comedy Central’s Drunk History leads the pack, and now we have Shit-Faced Shakespeare, a live show, stumbling into town.

Camp Bar Twin Cities

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The franchise had its genesis on the U.K. Fringe circuit, moving on to London’s West End and currently spreading across America. There are now productions in Boston, Atlanta, Austin, and St. Paul, where the Shit-Faced Shakespearians have a Friday and Saturday residency at Camp Bar through February with their take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

This past weekend’s opening performances featured veteran actors from U.K. and Boston shows; a local cast is being trained in and will start to take over this coming weekend. It hasn’t been heavily promoted, but Twin Cities fans somehow got the memo. Saturday night’s crowd was big, enthusiastic, and noticeably younger than the audience for previous Camp Bar shows like Flanagan’s Wake and Deer Camp: The Musical.

The premise of Shit-Faced Shakespeare — as explained on Saturday by emcee Laura Sullivan — is that the company has taken “five fine Shakespearean actors” and gotten one of them “properly shit-faced.” Sullivan produced, as evidence, a depleted bottle of sparkling wine and two Red Stripe empties. Two audience members are empowered, with horn and gong, to call for more drinks if it seems like the actor is sobering up.

On Saturday, Beth-Louise Priestley played Hermia in the most appealing version of “shit-faced” ever seen. Giggling and stumbling her way into the woods with Lysander (Mac Young), Priestley repeatedly wandered off the already-loose book, causing sympathetic consternation among her castmates, including Stacey Norris as Helena and John Mitton as Demetrius.

By the end of the show, everything has gone to hell and been patched back up again, which is about as much as you can make of the original plot. Those familiar with the real play will catch an additional level of humor, but by no means do you need to be conversant with the original to enjoy the interactive antics of the Shit-Faced troupe.

The genius of the concept is that having only one of the cast members “shit-faced” focuses your attention on the actor who’s stumbling into the scenery while you almost don’t notice that the actors playing it straight are being pretty funny as well.

Another smart choice the producers have made is to retain the one-hour, no-intermission format they inherited from the Fringe. Shows start at 9:30 p.m., making it easy to grab dinner first or to just arrive at the bar early and get... well, you know. Let’s put it this way: You’re not having a triple espresso.

Shit-Faced Shakespeare
Camp Bar
490 N. Robert St., St. Paul
651-292-1844; through February 25