Orlando Fringe Review: A Brief History of Beer
My first post-college job was as a tour guide at Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s brewery tour, where I was forced to wear a ridiculous red bow tie and came home nightly smelling of wort. After that experience I disavowed any interest in beer facts beyond its price and alcohol content, but A Brief History of Beer was just entertaining and educational enough to make me reconsider my position.
In this sci-fi spoof, creator/performers Trish Parry and William Glenn pilot their brew-fueled Quantum Pint Machine though time on a drink-along adventure of historical facts, histrionic accents and enforced audience participation, all relating to the civilization-shaping influence of beloved beer.
Our ersatz Enterprise warps us back to ancient Iraq, origin of agriculture, where priestess-brewers invented religion revolving around fermented grain. Other destinations include the Middle Ages, when brewer-hood was practically a prerequisite for sainthood, and Industrial Revolution England, where mass-produced porter portended the nefarious neutering of beer diversity by multinational conglomerates like InBev. At each time-jump, the audience must assist the action by chugging on command; if you aren’t soused enough by the end, there’s a pop quiz with free beer for a prize.
There’s a brewmaster’s seminar worth of interesting information delivered (like the fact that hops cause erectile dysfunction) but unfortunately the production isn’t exactly flawless. Parry and Glenn give exuberant performances and demonstrate impressive imbibing abilities, but their acting styles tend toward malt-flavored melodrama that would barely pass muster on a musty third-season episode of Star Trek. Video projection production values are amateurish (perhaps deliberately so) and some scene transitions could be tighter. Finally, the proceedings lose their carbonated fizz in the final minutes, with the anti-corporate closing segment flying over my head in a torrent of fast-talking. Then again, I always (OK, often) review shows sober; with a couple of pints in you, this play might seem like a perfect pour.