A little humor, some of it blue. Music, some of it new. Some fun. Some games. Lots of booze.
If that’s a condensed version of your ideal Saturday night, Bye Bye Liver: The Philadelphia Drinking Play might be the show for you.
The theatrical collection of sketches, songs and audience-participation games opens at 9 p.m. on Saturday in the 70-seat upstairs room at Downey’s, Front and South streets.
The show’s audience “isn’t the typical theatergoing crowd,” said Josh Dunkin, director of theater operations for the Pub Theater Company. But then, Bye Bye Liver isn’t typical.
The show, created by Dunkin’s college pal Byron Hatfield, is a mix of forms as well as snippets of music encompassing different genres and different times — a theatrical brew intended for a small audience.
“We like to keep it intimate,” Dunkin said. “The show works better when you feel you’re drinking with the actors.”
The characters in this production are meant to be very recognizable. They’re the barroom types many of us encounter on our nights out.
Bye Bye Liver is set in the fictional Frank’s Bar, and the bartender, portrayed by actress Jordi Wallen, guides the audience through the night’s ceremonies. The character, Dunkin said, is “every bartender you’ve ever known.”
Northeast Philly resident Joel Gleiser portrays a piano player who adds background music and also participates in the proceedings. There is a server, too, and four other players who keep the sketches lively.
One skit involves “the girl who shouldn’t drink liquor,” Dunkin said. She’s OK with a beer or two, but nothing harder. This is apparent in personality alterations as the same conversation is repeated and the alcohol content of the drinks gets stronger.
The show’s music is from all over the place, Dunkin said, with a bit of something for everybody — songs that will be recognized so audience members can sing with the cast.
Folks in the audience also are encouraged to participate in games. There are, for example, a version of Name That Tune and a matchmaking game.
People who are shy or just aren’t up to taking part have nothing to worry about, Dunkin said. “We try to keep it user-friendly,” he explained. “We don’t go after somebody to pick on them, and we’ve gotten good at recognizing who wants to be involved or not.”
Dunkin and other members of the production company have had lots of practice. Philly is the sixth town to get a Bye Bye Liver production, he said, and some adjustments have been made.
When Dunkin and Hatfield, who went to college together at Middle Tennessee State University near Nashville, opened their first show in Chicago in 2006, performances started at 11:30 p.m. and audience members were allowed to bring their own bottles.
“People would come in with cases, and they would get hammered,” Dunkin said. “It was like the Wild West.”
Because people imbibe as they watch the show, Dunkin said, it was decided that an earlier show time would be more prudent.
“It’s a better start for your evening,” he said.
In fact, the interactive audience tends to turn up the volume as the evening’s show progresses, which makes the need for players with strong vocal cords rather obvious.
“We need booming voices,” Dunkin said, noting that Wallen, who plays the bartender, has “a voice to overpower the crowd.”
One of the games the performers play with the audience requires two very good sports — a man and a woman who are single and don’t mind being the center of attention during a matchmaking game. They’re asked multiple-choice questions to see if they are compatible enough to date.
Have any marriages resulted from that?
“No, no marriages, although there might be a Bye Bye baby out there … or two,” Dunkin joked. “We reserve the right to name the kids.” ••
Reporter John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Hello, Bye Bye …
Bye Bye Liver: The Philadelphia Drinking Play opens at 9 p.m. Saturday at Downey’s Bar and Restaurant, 526 S. Front St.
Show length: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Performances: Every Saturday night. No closing date has been set.
Tickets: $15 at the door
Web site: ByeByeLiver.com