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THEATER REVIEW Bye, Bye, Liver
by Mary Shen Barnidge
2017-12-31

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Playwright: Written and performed by the ensemble

At: Byron Hatfield Productions at The Public House Theater, 3914 N. Clark St.

Tickets: $18-$22. Runs through: Open run

No bachelorette parties were in evidence the week before Christmas, but two birthdays were being celebrated at this outpost for entertainment focused on the consumption of alcoholic beverages—comedy sketches based in time-travel adventures tracing the same barroom pick-up line to Paleolithic cultures, or a visit from the spectral sorceress of Blackouts, along with games called "Drunken Karaoke" and "Name That Drink."

Has it really been more than 10 years since Byron Hatfield premiered his guzzle-and-guffaw concept as a BYO late-nite romp in Bucktown's now-defunct Gorilla Tango cabaret? The formula that spawned an empire encompassing a cozy resident playhouse in Lake View and franchises in eight cities shows no sign of abating in its appeal to young urbanites on small budgets in search of a few giddy laughs.

Heralding the revue's milestone is Drunken Karaoake's formerly live-action clue to guessing the song now supplied by sound-bite of amateur vocalists wearing headphones and caroling along to tunes only they can hear, selected among such categories as "Pump You Up" and "Choreography for Ants." ( To ensure intergenerational inclusion, the "Easy Ones for the Slow Kids" inventory lists top-40 hits like Toto's "Africa." )

Name That Drink challenges a player to discern the source of the intoxication described—absinthe fueling a hallucinogenic scenario, for example. A correct answer mandates everyone in the room toast the victor, while an erroneous one—say, declaring, as one contestant did, butterscotch schnapps to be the tipple of choice at soccer games—condemns the culprit to swallow both his pride and a portion of his potation.

Preventing the evening from dissolving into chaos are a quick-witted ensemble adept at maintaining control of even the most ribald spectators ( "We are not holding auditions tonight" the biggest of them proclaims ), nor does the bibulous premise entail tactics likely to endanger vulnerable strays from the Wrigleyville district to the south on Clark Street. Teetotalers, designated drivers and just plain unthirsty revelers may enjoy their soft and fizzy libations with no fear of harassment or ridicule. Indeed, the production company's record of support for the American Liver Foundation attests to its safe approach to recreational imbibing. Bottoms up!


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