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The Virilogy: A Drinking Game – Good To The Last Drop

by Karen Tortora-Lee on July 14, 2012

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I was in my early 20s, NYPD Blue was breaking all sorts of rules and watching it was absolutely necessary, especially if you lived in New York.  Making fun of it was necessary too – and we did.  ”Drink every time David Caruso says ‘come here’ and hugs someone” was the first drinking game I remember hearing that mixed liquor and entertainment.  I played the game.  I got drunk as David Caruso hugged people.

So, when I heard that StrangeDog Theatre was doing a show where you “Step one: Come See The Show.  Step two: Choose a Character. Step three: When the Character Drinks, So Do You.” I was in.

Here’s what I expected: a lot of drinking. A lot of random chit-chat on stage peppered with a lot of drinking, encouraging the audience to drink along in an effort to make their show experience seem better than it really was.  Here’s what I got:  an enormously well-written well acted, well directed play so full of laughs, heart, and surprises that the drinking-game part became secondary.  Yes, you heard me right.  The thing that had me most excited was actually overshadowed by a terrific night of theatre.

Initially the fun of The Virilogy is three fold:  first, there’s the simple Simon-says aspect.  You’ve picked your character and for the first scene you’re glued to him.  Will he drink?  Wait … did that count?  Oh, damn … I got wrapped up in the story and forgot to drink! Is this like Mother May I? Is there a penalty here?  Nah, don’t sweat it.  No one’s watching.  Oh, wait … that’s the second fun aspect of the show … Under St. Marks Theatre is just small enough that, positioned correctly, you are keenly aware of whom your fellow audience members are choosing to follow.  Suddenly you’re watch to make sure so-and-so drinks when their character does.    But then there’s the third aspect, and by the final act it’s the aspect which has pretty much paced the drinking game: the pure fun of this amazing show.  By the time the third act rolls around I’ll venture to say some people weren’t even drinking anymore and were just enjoying this unfolding friendship.  Remarkable.


The Virilogy featuring Scott Cagney, Alejandro R. Hernandez, and David Murgittroyd (Photo credit Joseph Dreschel)

Written By Ben Clawson and directed by Artem Yatsunov The Virilogy follows three friends through three stages of their lives – each stage putting one of them front and center as they deal with a love interest.

The first act entitled Virilia stars Alejandro Hernandez as Quinn who shows up to Stu’s home (David Murgittroyd) in complete devastation over the breakup with his girlfriend.  In this simple but brilliant beginning Clawson and Yatsunov reveal that -done right- nothing is funnier than mining a heartbroken man for comedy.  While Quinn falls apart Stu and Brian (Scott Cagney) decide to ignore it (“Was he crying?” “His face was wet.  I chose not to investigate why”) and “do what men do” (“I bought you this beer.  I want you to drink it. It’s how we help”).  However, they can only ignore so much as they begin to notice Quinn is wearing Michelle’s sweatshirt and even worse … her perfume (“It’s like a nicotine patch for my nose …”).  Stu and Brian’s reaction to Quinn’s depression is brutal, but his reaction to now being just one of them again winds up being the most crushing blow of all.

Intermission.  Buy more drinks.  The game’s not over!

When we next catch up with the guys it’s obvious some years have passed – though not many.  They’re just grown up enough now to wear ties to work and cook for their girlfriends, but they’re still up to the same shenanigans.  Virility centers on Brian’s breakup this time, only this one is a whole different animal.  Stu and Quinn have hated Brian’s girlfriend Lindsay with such a vengeance that they have made up songs about her  which they sing every time she leaves the room.  They’ve invested exorbitant time and money creating a huge chart they can use as a presentation as to why she is bad – not only for Brian … but bad in general.  The screwball reasons coupled with the pair’s antics (including stabbing a cantaloupe head in effigy) were  so deeply disturbing yet hilarious that I’m not sure anything could have made it funnier.  And while it seemed outlandish there was a foundation of truth that I think everyone in the audience could respond to – who HASN’T had a dear friendship threatened by a significant other who was simply intolerable?  Stu and Quinn’s roadshow is something we’d all do if we had a great piece of poster board to build on.

Second intermission.  Last chance to get your drinks!

The final act – Visectomy - is a perfect nightcap to this show.  After the hilarity of the first two acts this is where everyone drives it home.  Clawson flips the script and shows his ability to delve into the more serious side of male bonding writing a scene that is as real, visceral and raw as the other two were side-splitting and hilarious.  The three men now show their adult sides … again, while it’s impossible to gauge how much time has passed there’s talk of wives, children, actual jobs.  Murgittroyd, Cagney and Hernandez all now have the body language of older men, they have adult swagger, they have a world-weary bent in their posture.  As these three friends come together on what would have been Stu’s wedding day, the drink of choice is no longer beer but something stronger.  They do what they’ve done for their entire friendship – they stand together and support each other, only this time despite the jokes, there’s an undertone of seriousness, sometimes of regret, sometimes of thankfulness.  More is at stake, and as they reflect on what has been they see their mistakes, their moments of regret, but also their strong friendship which has gotten them through. By the end of this show all three men have grown up and the drinking game has become a toast, not only to the characters, but to the incredible team that brought this show to life.

I’m not sure if The Virology started out as a drinking game.  It sure works as one – there’s a lot of drinking going on, and it’s nice to sit in an audience and bond with your guy, drink when he drinks, and feel yourself getting a little tipsy in an “I love you guys” way by the end.  But does this show work without the drinking?  Absolutely.  It works on every level.  I left feeling as if I’d watched a real friendship unfold.

Though StrangeDog Theatre Company are based in New Jersey I want them to come back to Horse Trade as often as possible.  I can’t wait to see more of what they have on tap.


July 5-14
UNDER St. Marks
94 St. Marks Place (between 1st Ave and Ave A)
Thursday through Saturday at 8pm.


Tickets ($18, including 1 free beer) are available online at or by calling Smarttix at 212-868-4444.
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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Artem YatsunovNo Gravatar July 23, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Dear Karen Tortora-Lee,

My name is Artem Yatsunov and I am the director of The Virilogy: A Drinking Game which you recently reviewed for this here Happiest Medium. Your review was both wonderfully written and incredibly touching.

Your article came to us as the very last review during our run and it completely humbled the entire cast and crew. So glad you enjoyed the show – and I’m completely beside myself that you discovered this bonding element in the night. To be perfectly honest it was something I never had to say out loud or ever discuss with the cast; bonding and seeking closure was and is the essence of this little tale and the core of the relationship of these three ever changing yet incorrigible men-children which we all immediately related to and, as per typical male relationships, never had to talk about. Of course you are right on point observing that this play did not start out as a Drinking Game, but having added this element we found night after night people responding in the way you so spot on identified: they were glad to be “in on it,” to be a part of the experience. It took us completely by surprise because it was so very much what we wanted out of the night and just weren’t sure was going to hit. And it’s not something I take lightly because that is a focus of my work – I firmly hold to that simple and basic esthetic of theatre: theatre is the art of story-telling for everyone. You pointing out how the notion of a bond was reverberating through the audience and that you felt a connection to your aisle neighbor was as an astute of an observation and as strong of a compliment as we could’ve ever desired, and could never been prepared for. From start to finish, thanks for getting what the night was all about.

We hope to see you at our next show, and of course you are absolutely always welcome back to check out everything we do! In NYC or in NJ (but who would want to go to Jersey, am I right?, come on.)

All the best to you in your work and thanks again for your immensely encouraging review.

Karen Tortora-LeeNo Gravatar July 23, 2012 at 10:14 pm

Not only will I travel to New Jersey for you guys I will encourage MANY others to do so as well. What I saw you create was truly memorable – something I didn’t expect going in and something I couldn’t forget after leaving. Just send me directions and I will hop in my car for Strange Dog ANY TIME.

Thanks for writing, Artem. Next show I will make a point of saying hello in person.

Artem YatsunovNo Gravatar July 26, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Karen – you are a gem! Thank you for your support, we hope to keep thrilling you. Our next production is coming up – it’s a different side of the pack. It’s “story time” with StrangeDog! 5 very funny dark short plays in a night called New.Tricks! At the Red Room Sep 13-29, Thur-Sat. Hope to catch you there and at the KGB Bar afterwards!

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