Our Bar: Theater in a Bar

Kaelin Birkenhead (l) and Janette Johnston (r)

 

 

By Ron Fassler

 

Whether you are a visitor to New York, or a die-hard resident, almost everyone loves a night on the town that might include stopping in someplace in search of a few laughs. Each of the five boroughs offer comedy nights in clubs seven nights a week, everywhere from local bars to longtime institutions like the Comic Strip or the Comedy Cellar. Drinking and laughing is a well-honored NY tradition, that includes the built-in factor that anything can happen when it’s live. Last night, I caught Season Ten (who knew?) of Our Bar: Theater in a Bar, performed at the Falite Irish Whiskey Bar on Second Avenue in midtown (Kipps Bay). Upon entering the downstairs bar, you are immediately whisked upstairs to another one: a long narrow strip with a full bar, surrounded by places for patrons to stand or sit around its perimeter. From the start, as well as throughout the show, you are unsure if the person seated or standing next to you might be part of it. Of course, if that’s the sort of thing that creates anxiety in you, this might not be your bottle of beer. For me, its cast of twenty-five were all up to the challenges of performing in the cramped space, projecting at full blast, and having a grand old time, creating characters that appear to have been well-honed by practice over the years, and live audiences telling them what works and what doesn’t.

In fact, these sketches “were from every year Our Bar has been alive,” according to the program. Since its inception by Project Theater in 2009, this company of players have been at these kind of staged performances, I would imagine have been developed out of improvisation. The writing is pretty good for these sort of short sketches, however, most could benefit from lopping off a full minute from each of them. It’s not for nothing that Shakespeare has Polonius say to Hamlet: “brevity is the soul of wit.” Bearing out that dictum, is that the most successful comedy of the night came from the shortest of the fifteen that were performed.

 

Paul Guyet (l) and Alicia Dawn Bullen (r)

 

All the actors were especially fine, with not a single bad apple in the barrel. As they are dubbed in the program, “Our Barbarians” include: Chris Behan, Kaelin Birkenhead, Casey Blake, Karen Bray, Alicia Dawn Bullen, Ben Bunce, Adam Carpenter, Bess Eckstein, Ken Ferrigni, Louis Gaudio, Jessica Giannone, Paul Guyet, Matt Haws, Marcus Denard Johnson, Janette Johnston, Joe Jung, Mark Koenig, Rebecca Kepec, David Lanson, Jennifer Logue, Amanda Marikar, Clare Parme, Kate Purdy, Glenn Rauch, Lauren Roth-Shaw, KL Thomas, Peter Turo, Matthew Wessler, Bimini Lee Wright and Adam Zurbruegg. And yes, all performed in the show last night.

The sketches are designed to flow directly from one to the next, never allowing for applause (although that short one I mentioned did receive an ovation, which was deserved). This creates a nice pace that never flags. The language is rough, and having a drink is not necessary to have fun (I can personally vouch for that). The atmosphere is raucous, but controlled, which is a plus. These folks clearly know what they’re doing, and nothing is better than the feeling that you’re in safe hands when embarking on an evening’s entertainment like this one.

Just before the finish, a bit more than an hour after it began, we were asked to tell friends to come, for what they describe as an “alcohol soaked entertainment for less than the cost of a shot and a beer.” When you put it that way, Our Bar: Theater in a Bar is pretty hard to resist. For $10, you should check it out.

 

Photos: Ron Fassler

 

OUR BAR: THEATER IN A BAR

www.facebook.com/ourbarnyc

Falite 531 Second Avenue, New York, NY

Next show: Wednesday, December 5th, 7pm & 9pm.

 

 

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