Friday, February 27, 2015

Review: Beware of Flying Ping Pong Balls

The folks at Three Day Hangover sure know how to have a good time. Combining Shakespeare and drinking is their staple and in their latest incarnation of boozy Bard brings the story of Henry V to the bar. With a war as a major theme, the ultimate frat house drinking activity gets the game spotlight in Hank V.
Beer pong sets the mood for this Henry V inspired two-hander that brings bros and best buddies Hank and Falstaff together for a night of beer, beer, and more beer. Oh, and a little whiskey. Hank V is a mostly fast-paced retelling of the history play and final part of the tetralogy. Though dead, Falstaff comes back to help Hank tell his story, playing an assortment of comical characters. The Three Day Hangover team employs “flying” plastic birds, red solo cups, and quick wit to keep the energy moving and the drinks flowing. Though it doesn’t contain as much audience participation as some of the other boozy theater shows, the laughs were just as plentiful. Directed by Beth Gardiner and Lori Wolter Hudson, the duo did an excellent job at finding comedy through the tragedy, maintaining the integrity of the source material. Shakespeare scholars know Henry V, but it’s not as insanely popular piece compared to their other pieces. The inclusion of a tetralogy recap at the start was a brilliant and essential addition to truly get the audience on the same page. Even if you had never read these histories, you were easily able to follow along. Three Day Hangover is known for bringing the fun and high-octane laughs but Hank V had a moment of drama that the others lacked. And interestingly enough, it was the least successful moment. Sticking to the text for a good portion, and putting the audience in the dark, literally, strayed from the fun mission and killed the brilliant momentum the duo had established. Of course it was a grand lead up for the all-involved ball in cup battle, still, another tactic may have been a cohesive choice.
As Falstaff and Hank, Christopher Ryan Grant and David Hudson respectively had an insane amount of chemistry, picking up on each other’s cues from start to finish. Their report was so strong that even the slightest mistake turned into a brilliant bit. Theater rarely forgives an actor for breaking, but watching Grant and Hudson lose it like Jimmy Fallon and Horatio Sanz was just as fun and entertaining. Grant’s physical comedy was the highlight of the night. It’s easy to compare him to a Jack Black or Chris Farely, but you could tell he had his own brand of comedy. His comedic depth knows no bounds. Hudson put on a dopey persona to play Hank and it worked. Though he didn’t have as much opportunity to go wild like Grant, his moments outside the bar gave him room to be foolish.
Making the trek to the Upper East Side is a hassle sometimes, but yet again Three Day Hangover proves that classic texts, bars, and drinking games are the recipe for a good time and a reason to take the journey. Three Day Hangover continues to conquer the theatrical bar scene. Finding ways to top themselves will be their next challenge.