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The Drunken Rant as Theater

Bogart's hosts a month of dark and demented monologues starting Halloween eve.


Produced by Yellow House Productions, "Drinking Games" is an example of "environmental theater," explains Yellow House president Stephanie Kelley. The goal of such a show is "to bring the life which art imitates into closer proximity with life itself," she says. In other words, make it as real as possible. Reality programming is nice, but all parties involved (including would-be patrons, it is assumed) agree that an equally important aspect is the freedom afforded to tie one on during the show.

"I feel frankly this will be more fun because you have the ability to drink while you watch," says Chapman, laughing a little into his cell phone from a coffee shop in New York, where it is pouring rain. Considering the elaborate costuming and obscene imbibing that accompanies a Richmond night within sneezing distance of Halloween regardless of staged theatrics, "Drinking Games" is shaping up to be a potential miniature Armageddon. "This is a show for the barflies," Chapman says. "I'd be happy if people broke out into song."

In 2002 Yellow House produced another environmental theater piece called "Duct-Tape to Family-Time." "Duct-Tape," also written by Chapman, took place in a grand house on Monument Avenue. Audience members were led room to room as the story unfolded. It was more like a staged play, whereas "Drinking Games" is all monologues with musical accompaniment written by a band put together especially for the show. The concept will be familiar to anyone who has seen Chapman's popular Pumpkin Pie Show.

Chapman, 28, originally wrote the material for "Drinking Games" as a portion of a similar show called "Blue Box" performed in New York. That show contained material written by several writers. Chapman felt the material was strong enough to stand on its own and decided to ship it south. Though he intends to keep the exact nature of these stories under wraps until show time, he admits they bear similarities to the so-called Southern Gothic style of the Pumpkin Pie Show and his books "Miss Corpus" and "Rest Area." "There's an odd Bukowski-meets-Frankenstein feel to it," Chapman says. "This is not going to be for the kids."

A former Richmonder, Chapman has lived in New York for about 10 years. While he doesn't plan to be on hand to see any of the Richmond performances, he does admit that it's more than a hometown that draws him to send his material here. "I do feel like a Southern boy," he says. "I'm such a big fan of Richmond. ... The enthusiasm has been there and will always be there." In bigger cities, he says, sometimes the crowd feels like it's made up of friends and other people who believe they have to be there for one reason or another. In Richmond, he says, "It's nice to do work and know that there will be a sincere appreciation for it. There's not ten different things competing in one night."

"Drinking Games" is a ticketed event ($10 each). So while everyone will be surprised by the exact nature of the material, no one will be surprised that it's happening, unless they are extremely well-lubricated with booze before accidentally wandering into the Back Room. But that does not stop an intrepid reporter from asking Chapman whether he ever considered springing such a thing on people with no warning — without advertising or ticket sales. It would be hard to turn a profit with such an idea, but it's malevolent enough to pique Chapman's interest. The man loves to shock. "Lord knows," he says, "it would be worth it to see the reaction on people's faces." S

"Drinking Games" premieres Sunday, Oct. 30, at 7 p.m. at Bogart's, 203 N. Lombardy St. It runs Sundays through Dec. 11. Tickets, $10, are available at 329-4735.

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