Audacious Theatre’s dipsomaniacal Dickens tours a quartet of Denver breweries

It’s Dickens, drunk.”

That’s the tagline for Audacious Theatre’s recurring holiday show Drunk Christmas, and it pretty much sums things up. Over the course of four weekends, the Denver-based pop-up interactive theatre will do an abbreviated version of A Christmas Carol at four different breweries. The actors will be drinking, the audience will be drinking. Everybody’s drinking!

And the show? Well, mostly they get all their lines right. And if they don’t? Well that’s part of the fun — and Henry judges aren’t exactly lining up for this one.

But audiences are. What originally started as two nights a few years ago burgeoned into four shows and now this year’s eight. Artistic director Ren Manley says Drunk Christmas is a fundraiser that helps the theatre mount shows in the upcoming year. Tickets are cheap, or free if you don’t mind standing or are just wandering by. But the cast passes the hat (er, hats) at the end and everyone goes home happy.

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Slurred and silly

For those who’ve seen Derek Waters’s Comedy Central show Drunk History, you might have some idea of how this works. Drunk Christmas is different in that all the actors are drunk, not just the narrator. It’s a recipe for a slightly slurred and rather silly Christmas Carol that’s a lot of fun to be part of since audience interaction is part of the deal. We got to throw snow on the Christmas ghosts, ring bells when Marley appears, drink every time Scrooge says “humbug” or when singing commences or if the word “spirit” is used or, really, just whenever we felt thirsty.

Six actors take on the task of playing all the characters, which makes for some hilarious moments as Tiny Tim becomes Tiny Tina, Scrooge’s long-lost love Belle might become Beau and actors male and female jump into whatever role is required at the moment. At all times they are sipping from cups of beer, which keeps things tipsy but not quite drunk. (By comparison, Derek Waters’s guests are usually quite plowed on the hard stuff.)

To give the actors a break from over-imbibing multiple nights, Manley and director Bethany Richardson staggered (OK, pun intended) the cast so that two actors have the narrator role (Manley and Phil Fugate), another two share Scrooge (Logan Custer and Shawna Urbanski), two more play Bob Crachit (Sam Randall and Jordan Aburto), another pair have Marley (Joey Laughlin and Sara Stephenson), Richardson and Wendy Hisel portray Fred and Belle/Beau are played by Liz McNiel or Scott Jamieson.

At the Nov. 30 show at Ratio Beerworks in RiNo, a boisterous Saturday-night crowd on the other side of the wall had the actors using their outside voices to be heard. But they were undaunted, and we soon tuned out the revelers to focus on the Dickens before us. Manley’s cut of the script works just fine, and the ensemble is a solid group of actors that roll with whatever happens. (At one point while playing the Ghost of Christmas Present, Manley stopped to ponder how her accent kept changing.)

This Audacious Theatre production of Drunk Christmas represents a certain kind of theatre with plenty of historical precedent. Many a theatre without its own space has staged shows in bars over the years, and there’s no room for shrinking violets in the cast. If the crowd gets loud, the actors must get louder, and the result is a highly energetic and entertaining production that’s a real hoot to be part of.

Drunk Christmas continues the next three weekends at Fiction Beer Company, Spangalang Brewery and Diebolt Brewing.