Bottoms Up — April 17, 2015 at 11:35 am

Three Thumbs Up for The Imbible: A Spirited History of Drinking



On Monday of last week, I felt the first twinges of excitement regarding my plans to see The Imbible: A Spirited History of Drinking at the SoHo Playhouse that Friday night. The days following, my anticipation grew to the point that, by Friday afternoon, I could barely contain myself.

Now, you may think this is a slightly dramatic (no pun intended) way to feel about seeing a play I knew almost nothing about, but let me explain myself. Firstly, I’ve been interested and involved in theater since a very young age. I’ve always loved performing, and I’ve always adored going to see plays and shows of basically any kind. Secondly, up until the a few weeks ago, I had been working in the service industry for almost a decade. I’ve mostly been a waitress, but I did my time bartending, too. I always loved the feeling of showing someone how I put together certain drinks and explaining different “mixology” processes to customers who were genuinely interested. At times, behind the bar making a complicated cocktail with all barstool eyes on me, I felt a little like I was onstage. That’s why when I heard of this unique performance that combined both bartending and theater into one, I was overjoyed at the prospect of going to see it. Consequently, the inner bar I had set for this show was slightly high. My expectations were on level with my excitement; that is, through the roof.


You can stop holding your breath now—I was not disappointed. For starters, when my friend and I approached the address of the playhouse we saw the door had a sign on it. Upon closer inspection, we saw that it stated to “walk back down the stairs and to the door on the left and knock three times.” (I’m certain it was written more eloquently than that, but you get the point.) At this point we were giggling like school girls because it felt like we were on some sort of secret mission. It was just so fun and exciting. I had never been to a speakeasy before, but I always heard of them having little instructions like this, to knock a certain number of times on the door and such. To someone who loves little thrills, this was a dream. We were greeted cordially, after obediently knocking three times, by a young girl with a stack of programs in her hand. She handed one to each of us and directed us where to go next.

As we entered the performance area, the first thing I took note of was the size of the space. It struck me as fairly small with no obvious stage or cleared out area. There was a small platform at the very back, but there were also tables and audience members on it so I wasn’t sure how the performance was going to work. I did notice, however, the cozy private (dare I even say intimate) atmosphere and I liked it immensely. There were two people behind the bar, a friendly looking fellow and a smiley woman. When we went up to order drinks, I found out that the man was, in fact, the star of the show, Anthony Caporale.

We returned to our table with our drinks, were handed complimentary bowls of popcorn (uh, awesome) and waited excitedly for the show to begin. As soon as the lights dimmed and the opening chords of music started to play, I quickly realized how the performance process was going to work. The four actors/singers/servers made their way back and forth between the small stage in the front (it wasn’t a problem that they were accompanied by audience members and tables, in fact, it seemed to work) and the bar in the back. The multi-tasking performers sang the first song while handing out trays of beer to every person watching. I was honestly amazed. I have a hard time doing each of those things individually, I highly doubt I would be capable of combining them, but there they were, doing it with what appeared to be ease and enjoyment.


Each performer was both entertaining and impressive. Nicole DiMattei and Ruthellen Cheney sparkled as the cocktail waitress and liquor runner, respectively. Their facial expressions, voices and hilariously animated pieces of dialogue kept me laughing. Not to mention, the way they were able to hand out drinks while simultaneously singing and acting continued to astound me long after I had left the theater. Will Allen made for a side-splitting barback, what with his excellent comedic timing and knack for improvising. (I’m only assuming some of his witty one-liners were improvised- if they were not, then he has a talent for delivering lines in a way that makes them seem spontaneous.) Anthony was a wealth of information. Having worked in the bar industry for so long, I thought I knew a whole lot about alcohol, but turns out I had a lot to learn. And he taught me through historical accounts, demonstrations, and jokes. Not to mention the cocktails he made were fantastic. One of the best gin and tonics I’ve ever had.

The show itself is basically a theatrical illustration of the progression of alcohol. It starts with how it was first discovered, and then moves through its medicinal and recreational purposes, prohibition, and so on. All the while, the audience gets a little taste of some of the landmarks in alcohol’s history (beer, an old fashioned, and the aforementioned gin and tonic). There is also an absolutely necessary bathroom break about an hour into it, for which I think everyone was thankful.

I really did want to include something I thought could be improved just to have some balance, but I enjoyed myself so thoroughly that I can’t think of anything. It’s obvious that this show means a great deal to the performers and they seem to really put their hearts into it. What more can you ask for from theater? They also mix up excellent cocktails and have them distributed quickly to everyone. What more can you ask for from bartenders? The Imbible was the perfect concoction of entertainment, education, and booze.

Twisted Talk: Do you know a lot about the history of alcohol? Have you seen The Imbible; what were your thoughts? Discuss below!

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Drink Up Me Hearties, Yo Ho!

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