I swear I'll never NOT drink again

Along with the business end of my trip to Atlanta last week there was also the non-business end - the dinners and after hours socializing, all done in the name of team building and networking.

Our first night the plans were more typical - dinner at the ESPN Zone in Buckhead. The service was slow, the food was good and because of the wall of TVs and having our group split up at smaller tables, the conversation was minimal. Plus, people were still arriving on the first night so the group was much smaller.

The dinner plans for our second night definitely set things up for a rather unique experience though. We found out our group had reservations booked at Agatha's in downtown Atlanta. Agatha's is a murder-mystery dinner theater where the actors act out the scenes of the "story" in between the meal's five courses. Members of the audience are also pulled in to participate in the events. Being a rather introverted person I was hoping this experience wasn't going to require my playing a role in the festivities. And as I was scanning Agatha's website during lunch I took solace in the fact that it said audience participation was encouraged, but not required (plus it sat 150 people so they couldn't possibly work that many people into the mix could they?)

However, as soon as we entered the door the first thing they did was hand each person a slip of paper describing their part and lines in their story. There were about 25 people in our group. Some had actual lines, but a lot of us (myself included) had to sing. Ugh!

Fortunately, Agatha's knows the key to a fun experience in this setting is alcohol . . . and LOTS of it. The average 8oz glass seemed to consist of a mix of about 6oz alcohol, 2oz mixer. Just a couple drinks of that will have the average person (especially the average 30-to-40-something working professional no longer in college-years drinking form) blotto drunk in no time flat.

Unfortunately for myself I was still on antibiotics from that nagging cold I've had ever since the end of January. Even though for all intents and purposes I was fine by this point I couldn't afford to take a chance for a relapse given how persistent this bug has been. So I faced the grim prospect of riding this night out STONE COLD SOBER. Mommy!

It wasn't just the prospect of having to stand up in front of a room full of people and sing that had me yearning for several glasses of their alcohol (with just a hint of flavor.) It was also the fact that I personally find theater types when they're in their over-the-top characters very irritating, at least in close quarters. No offense to the actors as they're just playing their part, but it's a personal thing. If you're up on stage and we have a nice buffer zone between us I'm fine with that; in fact I love cheesy characters then (heck Clue's one of my favorite movies of all time exactly because of that type of character.) But once I can actually reach out and touch you, more often than not I just want to reach out and strangle you. Renaissance fairs are sort of the pinnacle of this experience for me. Perhaps I ought to have a few drinks before going to one of those next time. It might change my perspective entirely.

I wasn't alone in having to ride out the night sober. My co-worker Lori also wasn't drinking. However, we were the ONLY people in our large group foolhardy enough to go it straight. Naturally as we sat down for our first course the wheels were already well-lubricated amongst our colleagues and the conversation was flowing. The actors came out and performed the first act of the story while several key audience members also read their character's lines.

My song wasn't until the fourth act so I had plenty of time to ruminate over what was to come. To make matters worse my group (at least it was a group) had to actually write our own song. I missed the get-together between acts when our song was composed so I had no idea what I was supposed to sing.

As the second and third acts unfolded, it quickly became clear that there wasn't really much of a story per se in this whole comedy. The story was technically called 'Pirates of the Chattahoochee." But other than a steady barrage of (often painful) one-liners from the actors referencing pop culture there wasn't exactly a real storyline. When almost the entire audience is bombed though and the whole production is basically one big mad libs I guess you don't have to be saddled with concerns like that.

Another thing that became readily apparent was that you definitely come here for the show (and the alcohol), not the food. For $52 a person I was expecting some pretty decent grub. What I got though was buttermilk dressing posing as ranch followed by some fillet mignon marinated in a sauce so sweet it took half a bottle of salt just make it comparable to candy corn.

As the fourth act started my group's part in the production really started to pick up. Several of our group got up to give their lines or sing their songs will the full gusto that half a fifth of alcohol will provide. Since I was in a fairly large group I figured I just wouldn't get up and sing. Nobody would notice anyway. But as they called my group up and I realized half the audience couldn't see straight anyway I figured why not get into the spirit of things. I stood right up front while our group sung some bizzaro song (surprisingly relevant to the story too) to the tune of Gilligan's Isle. We put the group that sang Row Row Row Your Boat to shame. After the show had concluded we thanked the actors for the experience and stumbled out into the street.

Words really can't do it justice, but it was definitely a memorable evening, especially for those of us who had to ride it out sober.


Adam said...

So, perhaps the people i saw weilding swords on Saturday should go to this place. They probably would of fit right in.

Oh brother, what I would of given to see you singing some cheesy ass song.

KeithB said...

Most of my worry actually ended up being for nothing. It was the fear of the unknown (and immediately assuming the worst case scenario) that made me so anxious. You know me. I wouldn't have gone up there (without a drink anyway) had the situation been too embarrassing.

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