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The origins of brunch, and more significantly the invention of those adult beverages that typically fuel brunches, are illuminated in The Imbible: Day Drinking. Three cocktails are folded into the price of admission at the little Green Room lounge located within the New World Stages complex, where this cabaret-type event appears on weekend afternoons. A surprisingly educational diversion, this cheerful lesson marks the latest concoction by Anthony Caporale, a professional mix-master whose The Imbible: A Spirited History of Drinking premiered at the New York Fringe Festival in 2014 and remains a running attraction at New World Stages. Since then, Caporale has stirred up several variations on this alcoholic theme, including celebrations of tiki drinks and Christmas libations; Day Drinking opened earlier this month as the latest chapter in his string of Imbible spin-offs.
Entering the lounge, where the audience is seated at small tables, spectators are invited up to the bar to make their own Bloody Marys. A highball glass with a jigger or so of liquor of one’s choosing is provided along with an array of various tomato and vegetable juices, condiments, and garnishes. A so-called continental brunch that accompanies the cocktail is a paltry buffet of tiny cheese cubes, minuscule muffins, packaged pepperoni slices, and canned Vienna sausages, so spectators might want to get a real meal under their belts before they partake of this liquid entertainment.
Four youthful performers, who assume multiple roles, enact a scenario regarding four frazzled New Yorkers en route to a brunch. Over the course of their separate journeys, the audience will see them encounter, respectively, a greenmarket pickle vendor, a barista, a wine salesman, and a baker, all of whom are astonishingly informative and chatty folks. Lightly amusing anecdotes and vignettes quickly pour forth over the next two hours: One story suggests how brunch possibly stems from the breakfasts that the fox-hunting gentry enjoyed in nineteenth-century England; another sequence humorously dramatizes how the very first Bloody Mary popped up in Paris. (Or perhaps it happened in Manhattan, or maybe it really occurred in Palm Beach; the cocktail’s creation is claimed by all three cities.)
The second drink imbibed during the program is an Irish coffee, which inspires caffeinated tales of pirates, a seduction in the Caribbean, a brief visit to a puppet show in 1905 Italy, and a practical demonstration in pulling a perfect espresso. The concluding cocktail, a fruity Bellini, is the centerpiece for a history of sparkling wine that in particular recounts the early-1800s saga of a visionary French widow named Cliquot, whose technical and marketing genius elevated Champagne to its estimable status. Naturally, such a fizzy sequence features a song about bubbles, one among half a dozen upbeat numbers composed by Josh Ehrlich and sung in a cappella style by the company.
The personable quartet handily switches between numerous accents, costume pieces, and attitudes as they swiftly depict a cavalcade of personages who figure in to this fluent chronicle. Their nimble performances prove more potent than the traditional concoctions they serve up, which (especially in the case of the muddy Irish coffee) tend to be a tad weak. Still, The Imbible: Day Drinking usually goes down smoothly enough, and is likely to send you out into the evening in fine spirits.
The Imbible: Day Drinking
New World Stages
340 West 50th Street
Through September 2