Show Review: Drunk Talk Loses Focus
Theatre Row in Hollywood is, more often than not, a grab bag of possible shows. There’s the longstanding stalwarts like Horrible Movie Night, ComedySportz, and even the improv showcase show Room 101 in the Flight Theatre at The Complex. These, of course, are mixed with a rotating blend of fresh ideas and old implementations, deliriously wonderful runs and excruciatingly overdrawn flops. But one thing Theatre Row always seems to have in it’s favor is the audience. Even in these lean times, there are more than enough friends, family, fans, and potential performers hanging around the dozen-or-so theatre spaces to keep the whole vibe sustainable. Just look to the audience.
Notwithstanding the metaphysical air being squeezed out of the above paragraph, this is generally the idea behind Drunk Talk, the new “full immersion bar show” being put on by Thomas Blake (co-producer/director of the wonderfully-reviewed Point Break LIVE!) and Lance Whinery (writer for Rules of Engagement). Currently slated for eight performances at The Dragonfly bar on Santa Monica & Wilcox, the show revolves around McSwiggin’s, the local bar that’s been keeping a few diehard regulars from going thirsty. Unfortunately, six or eight patrons does not a thriving bar make, so the old gal will be shutting her doors for good, trapping all of those feuding friendships, unrequited loves, and come-as-you-are story lines inside for good. That is, UNLESS SOMEONE SAVES THE BAR!
If you’re worried the show might have just been given away, don’t be. Drunk Talk, unfortunately, doesn’t stray more than a comma’s-width away from the simplified log line I've given it above. While presenting approximately one-and-a-half absurd characters, none of the cast is used with any real gusto or moments of intrepid comedy. Instead, the usual theatre tropes are generally wheelbarrowed out in front of the audience, with little more than a wry smile and wink. The busboy, David Alfano, plays admirably in his limited role, soaking up the most laughs per minute of stage time with his frustrated and on-point delivery. He is, however, the exception. The rest of the cast, while capable of several real moments of honest dramatic reaction, more often than not fall flat when the jokes are on the table. Instead, the show feels like it has a slow and quiet desperation to it, forcing actors into a burst of song here or poop joke there. Now, it’s fair to say that a lot of this boils down to simply uninspired writing (we can’t all pen that time-honored classic Point Break), wherein folks don’t change much and the storyline hinges on random benevolence and a clogged toilet. But the ultimate truth is, Drunk Talk seems to exist as a character show that falls well short of the type of comedy that it seeks to preach to the masses.
Which brings us back to the audience, those diehard fans and friends who brave an 8pm Sunday night call time for a show that pushes slightly overpriced drinks on you the moment you walk in the room. WIh a "full immersion" billing, one would hope Drunk Talk would do a better job of getting everyone involved. Expectations of an ImprovEverywhere-like environment, where you couldn’t be certain who was acting vs. who was just watching, were completely squashed the moment McSwiggin’s opened for business. Once the lights flicker, the bar area is reserved for the show only, and those ‘immersed’ are cattled into that familiar rectangle of metal chairs that spells doom for any really invested show interaction. As Drunk Talk plays out, the audience is given little more than a few semi-clever turns of phrase and a Jungle Juice-like shot used to cheers the bar at the appropriate time. Despite what can only be assumed are best intentions on the part of Drunk Talk and its crew, there is no dynamic paradigm shift between what a show should or shouldn’t be, no real moment of surprise or excitement at the way the audience is being manipulated to suit the evening. Instead, there are only the normal conventions of a show that, simply, isn’t very funny.
Sundays - 8pm
McSwiggin's (The Dragonfly)
6510 Santa Monica Blvd.