Drinking & Writing 5 | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Drinking & Writing 5 

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DRINKING & WRITING 5, Neo-Futurists, at T's Bar-Restaurant. Lots of writers drink, lots of people read, and lots of people will pay for the right to drink while watching a show about writers who drink. This is the lightweight premise for both "volumes" of the Neo-Futurists' Drinking & Writing. And the two shows are amusing enough, especially if you lift a pint or two with the cast.

The first volume was also the original show, which premiered in October 2002. Longer and more loosely structured than the other, it features writer-performers Sean Benjamin, Steven Mosqueda, and Diana Slickman reminiscing about their own drinking and about reading books by writers who drink. They also deliver biographical info for and writings by such famous alcoholics as William Faulkner, Jack London, and H.L. Mencken. Imagine student presentations at a hip high school--in a classroom with an open bar--and you get the idea.

The best moments are those when the performers reveal something about themselves, like Benjamin's admission that he comes from a family of alcoholic electricians. The worst moments are those when they strain to say something profound and instead offer a prettified banality.

The second volume, organized around the energizing effect the 18th Amendment had on drinking and writing in America, has a tighter focus. As a result Benjamin, Mosqueda, and Chloe Johnston spend less time talking about themselves and more time spouting fascinating facts. Did you know, for example, that one of the dangers of bathtub gin was lead poisoning? The lead in the tub seeped into the liquor.

This show too is liberally sprinkled with pithy gems by talented writer-drunks and bits of biographical information, like that Edna St. Vincent Millay eventually became a morphine addict who died from a fall down a flight of stairs. These evenings don't have the heft of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, but as bar entertainment goes, they sure beat playing video poker.

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