This month, “[Expletive] Shakespeare” celebrates a year of offering 60 minutes of drunken hilarity, courtesy of William Shakespeare and Jack Daniels. The wildly successful production has allowed the company, led by Boston actor/producers Daniel Berger-Jones and Gabriel Kuttner, to expand to three venues in Boston and one in Austin, Texas, with plans for another in Atlanta this fall.
The gimmick: One of the five actors onstage gets drunk for each performance, and as he or she stumbles through an edited version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” or “The Merchant of Venice” with the help of fellow players and a “compere” (a sort of ringmaster/emcee), the Bard’s bawdy humor and rich characters become surprisingly vivid and the plays become much more interactive.
“I think the gift these shows give is that audiences who have never come to a theater before, or got turned off by Shakespeare in high school, are shocked at how much of the text is Shakespeare, and how much fun it is,” says Berger-Jones. “We’ve found that in ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ people aren’t paying attention to the drunk, they’re rooting for the lovers Beatrice and Benedict.”
The concept, and the three edited plays are the brainchild of Magnificent Bastard Productions, Ltd., and Lewis Ironside in particular. But Kuttner says those productions had limited runs during festivals in the United Kingdom. Kuttner and Berger-Jones invited the original company to play at Davis Square Theatre in Somerville, but audience demand encouraged them to take on producing roles. “[Expletive] Shakespeare” has now expanded to Fridays and Saturdays at Davis Square; Saturdays at Laugh Boston in the Seaport District; and starting in June, Oberon in Cambridge. The original company is opening in London’s West End next month.
“Ten years ago, Daniel and I were performing in five or six shows a year and we were penniless,” says Kuttner, who, with Berger-Jones, was one of the founders of the Orpheo Theatre Group. With “[Expletive] Shakespeare,’’ the partners are “moving toward a sustainable business model, covering our expenses and providing steady work for local actors.”
Berger-Jones says they are very protective of the actor who overindulges, and do not allow anyone to perform drunk more than once a month.
“We are so proud of our actors,” Berger-Jones says. “It takes guts to do this, and we are very careful to make sure they are supported and not placed in any danger.”
Their acting company has expanded to 20 rotating players, who come in and out of the show based on other commitments. Berger-Jones, who also runs Cambridge Historical Tours, says he often hires the “[Expletive] Shakespeare” actors to lead tours, playing various characters from history.
“Although the three productions we’ve been running were all tested in England, the next phase of our partnership will be more collaborative,” says Kuttner. “We plan on working closely with Lewis to develop another script this summer. We hope to workshop it before adding it to the repertory in the fall.
“There’s a lot of potential for ‘[Expletive] Shakespeare’ to grow into other markets across the country,” he says. “And then at some point, we may reach out to that fan base and invite them to something completely different.”
A gender-bending ‘Miserables’
Heart & Dagger Productions is dragging out the gender-bending costumes for a repeat performance of its wildly successful spoof “Drag Miserables” at Boston’s Club Cafe Tuesday and Wednesday. This 90-minute interpretation of the classic musical “Les Miserables” may leave you with tears in your eyes for all the wrong reasons.
Elliot Norton Award-winning actress Kiki Samko dons mutton chops for her cross-dressing turn as Inspector Javert, while Joey Pelletier does triple duty as the show’s director, the ill-fated Fantine, and one of the servers schlepping food and drinks to the enthusiastic crowd. The show’s staid narration is provided by Elizabeth Battey, whose off-the-cuff, sardonic quips give the source material some much-needed levity.
One lucky audience member is given the chance to don a curly blonde wig and perform “Castle on a Cloud” as Little Cosette. Everyone else is provided with a libretto and is expected to sing along with the chorus of factory workers, barricade boys, and lovely (ahem) ladies. Tickets: $15-$35, 617-536-0966, www.clubcafe.com.
Opening around town
Boston favorites Will Lyman and Maureen Keiller star in “Oh, God,” in which God — that would be Lyman — sits down for a session with a therapist. Israeli Stage presents Anat Gov’s play at Arsenal Center for the Arts Black Box Theatre, Watertown, April 14-30. Lyman and Keiller have been performing staged readings of the play for two years. Directed by Guy Ben-Aharon, the full production is only the company’s second, following last season’s “Ulysses on Bottles.” Tickets: $35, bit.ly/IS_OhGod.
A touring production of “The Wizard of Oz,” with additional songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, lands at the Citi Wang Theatre April 12-24. Tickets: $30-$125, www.citicenter.org.
Catty characters with names like Sneerwell, Snake, and Candour turned dishing into an art form long before “Gossip Girl” hit TV. In a production by Actors’ Shakespeare Project, actress and director Paula Plum directs Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s “The School for Scandal,” a comic romp through rumor, lust, and hypocrisy, April 13-May 8, at the Multicultural Arts Center, Cambridge. Tickets: $28-$50, 866-811-4111, www.actorsshakespeareproject.org.
A trio of Boston’s finest fringe actors join forces for the Hub Theatre Company’s production of “Art.” John Geoffrion, Bob Mussett, and Victor Shopov play the three friends who argue over art in Yasmina Reza’s play, through April 23, at First Church Boston. All tickets are “pay-what-you-can.”Terry Byrne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.