If you’re looking for a cure for the Sunday night blues, indulge in Stolen Chair’s latest, the whimsical Potion. This “play in three cocktails” is an interactive piece of theatre, a spoken opera and a drinking session rolled into one which includes what is possibly the longest stage snog and biggest chugged drink in the annals of New York theatre.
Narrated by a series of troubled bar flies who speak their repetitious lines rhythmically to the background music played on bass, banjo, guitar and more by Sean Cronin. The operatic ingredient has mixed effect sometimes, resembling the earsplitting cacophony of a terrible hangover while at others achieving a mesmeric poetry.
Go thirsty, as there’s more poetry in the form of the three cocktails served at intervals during this perfect date-night play. A non-alcoholic option is available but resist the urge to be virtuous as the non-drinkers must feel slightly short-changed with their one long drink. The real cocktails, on the other hand, arrive in tiny individual corked bottles with vintage-looking labels akin to Alice in Wonderland’s “Drink Me” . There’s more than a passing resemblance to a spell lesson at Hogwarts. and the cocktails designed by Marlo Gamora are taste sensations with lists of ingredients that will have you reaching for Google to identify.
But it’s not only the smashing drinks that will send you home with a warm glow. This is a heart-warming tale with the uplifting feel of what my older relatives used to call a “lightener”- the first drink of the evening. The beautiful bar tender, Charley, played with commanding presence by Natalie Hegg, has a knack for magic mixology – one of her drinks is likely to cure whatever ails you and if not you’ll have fun trying. “At its worst, you learn; at best, we alter people’s lives forever,” she claims. One of her cocktails transforms a geeky, shy guy into a snogging sex machine. David Skeist who plays Philip, has many unexpected talents; not least is a prodigious bladder as his part demands that he chug a long cocktail designed to make him wistful. Charley then tests out her love potion on him to see if it will make someone else fall in love with him. This requires Skeist to have long lasting lips as it induces a massive kissing session. Another drink dreamt up by Charley’s sidekick barman Jim, a laconic Noah Schultz in a Salvador Dali moustache, is designed to make a sweet wallflower meaner. Not all drinking, as we all know, is benign. But the point of the love potion is entwined in a convoluted plot line upon which the future of the bar relies. Serious issues and plot are not where the charm of the play lies, however; it’s in the delicious feeling of eavesdropping on some seriously loopy lives.
The whole mad mix swirls towards an inevitably happy ending just as you take the last sip of your own “Love Potion.” The bar stays open after the play but after three cocktails it’s perhaps safer to head home and avoid the risk of closely resembling one of the drinkers in the play.