The stunning Broadway revival of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, now at the Booth Theatre, raises questions about monogamy, life and lies. But the big question for us was, “Can anyone drink that much and live?”
In the first act alone George and Martha pour out 17 drinks — straight booze, on the rocks. Followed by 9 more in act two, and another 3 in act three, for a final count of approximately 29 — give or take half-empty glasses — liquor drinks consumed by four people between the hours of 2am and 6am, after a night of imbibing at a fancy-pants university party.
(We don’t know how to rank poor Honey (Carrie Coon) who, already plastered when we meet her, tosses back multiple brandies, pukes, rallies, drinks, pukes again and then possibly polishes off a bottle of liquor while lying on the bathroom floor. We’re just hoping Nick took her to the ER immediately after their exit.)
We asked a pro whether these characters would be standing, let alone sparring eloquently, after the amount of alcohol they consumed. “There is no way they could drink that much!” says Dr. Barry Kohn, a NYC-based M.D. “But it is theater. There was no way the Mad Men drank that much either.”
It is “theater.” And the theater loves drunks. So we rounded up some (there are a lot) our all-time favorite drunk-tank dramatics for your enjoyment. In our opinion Virginia Woolf drinks them all under the table, but that’s a sober opinion.
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
Is any other drunken scream as iconic as Stanley’s “Stellaaaaaaaa”? Doubtful. When you factor in that it’s followed by Stanley stumbling through the front door like a half-tranquilized yeti and taking advantage of his wife’s sister (also probably inebriated), it’s easily one of the most epic drunk moments in stage history.
Bachelorette by Leslye Headland
Bottles of Veuve Clicquot are imbibed recklessly by a coven of trash-talking party girls wreaking havoc in a hotel in this dark comedy, but champagne-and-havoc cocktails are just the pre-game. Soon enough the ladies are binging on hard drugs and acidic zingers, proving drunken belligerence isn’t limited to the boys’ club.
The Wild Party by Andrew Lippa or Michael John LaChiusa
Cocaine, sex, and lots of gin are a lethal trio in both musical versions of Joseph Moncure March’s famed 1928 narrative poem, and composers Andrew Lippa and Michael John LaChiusa were equally wont to sugarcoat the moral that too much jazz and liquor lead to a tragic end. Oh, Queenie…
Detroit by Lisa D’Amour
Three words: Lawn. Furniture. Bonfire. That’s what happens when struggling suburbanites shotgun cheap beer like undergraduate fraternity brothers. And don’t even get us started on the poor kitchen curtains.
Nice Work if You Can Get It, with songs by George and Ira Gershwin and a book by Joe DiPietro
For a show about bootleggers, Nice Work is surprisingly sober — people hide bathtub gin in basements, but the drunk antics tame. That is until Judy Kaye‘s teetotaling character accidentally binge drinks spiked lemonade and all hell breaks loose. Kaye’s plastered, chandelier-dangling antics are the highlight of the musical, and won her a 2012 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress.
Guys and Dolls by Frank Loesser, Jo Swerling, and Abe Burrows
You have to be a special kind of lightweight to fall in love with a craps-junkie mobster after a few dulce de leches, but that’s what straight-and-narrow church girl Sarah Brown does when out on the town with made man Sky Masterson. She’s lucky they didn’t have Jell-O shots in 1950.
Company by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth
It’s not an overtly soused show, but cynical alcoholic Joanne gets one of Sondheim’s greatest numbers ever, the boozy “Ladies Who Lunch,” in this tipsy musical toast to middle-aged rich dames who obsess over mindless activities and “art.” It’s a flambe of a song for any actress, be it Elaine Stritch or Patti LuPone (who spilled vodka on the audience during the number at a New York Philharmonic concert). Does anyone still drink vodka stingers?
Long Day’s Journey into Night by Eugene O’Neill
Shove three alcoholics and a morphine addict into a room and you’ll get four epic hours of finger-pointing, broken dreams and empty glasses. This tragic play, rightfully considered a classic of American drama, almost drives you to drink when you realize the characters are all based on O’Neill’s own family. Brutal.
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Manipulation and ambition are the driving forces in the famed tragedy, but they wouldn’t have amounted to much if the Lady of the house hadn’t gotten the royal guards so thoroughly hammered that they slept through their own king being brutally murdered. Walk of shame, guys. Serious walk of shame.
The Seafarer by Conor McPherson
Christmas in Ireland! Poker with the Devil! WHISKEY!!
Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth
Butterworth’s gonzo antihero Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron is so trashed throughout the play it’s a wonder leading man Mark Rylance didn’t need to be wheeled around on a hand truck to play him. A town wastoid who lives in a van down by the river and throws raves for teenagers, Rooster is the living embodiment of Bacchus himself — if Bacchus wore a filthy wife-beater and could talk to giants. He’s the only person on this list with a shot at out-drinking George and Martha’s posse, but it’s unlikely there’s a bar anywhere stocked well enough for that showdown.