Counting the Cocktails Onstage

The tally on tippling in some classic American dramas shows characters drinking to excess

Counting the Cocktails Onstage

Playwrights love to get their characters liquored up. 'Cause nothing says "Stagy self-destruction on the way" quite like constantly taking belts from a bottle or shot after shot at a bar. In doing so, though, these writers have been known to take dramatic license with the booze they dispense, pouring amounts down their creations' throats that would shut down the livers of the most hardcore imbibers long before the curtain drops. To illustrate, here are the tipple totals from a few classic plays and their effects, on the stage and off.

Sister Sarah Brown, Guys and Dolls

Amount drunk: Four Dulce de Leche rum cocktails

Effect in the play: Uncharacteristic flirtatiousness, dance fever, suddenly singing "If I Were a Bell"

Effect in real life: Wooziness, slurred speech, unintentional napping

James Tyrone, Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Amount drunk: Five glasses of whiskey on top of three-quarters of a bottle before Act III starts

Effect in the play: Inability to play cards, "hopeless stupor," indiscriminate quoting of Shakespeare

Effect in real life: Double vision, inability to operate heavy machinery, industrial-strength hangover

Brick, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Amount drunk: Nine glasses of bourbon on the rocks, plus three shots of bourbon back to back

Effect in the play: A "click in the head" that makes everything peaceful

Effect in real life: Dehydration, blackout

Martha, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Amount drunk: 11 glasses of gin, on top of who knows how much at a party before the play starts

Effect in the play: Even more vicious than usual verbal abuse of husband, physical aggression

Effect in real life: Severe alcohol poisoning

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Drinks Issue 2017, drinking onstage, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Long Day's Journey Into Night, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Guys and Dolls

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