By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Feb 07, 2010 at 3:03 PM

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For the past three years, a small Chicago-based group called The Pub Theater has been selling out Windy City performances of "Bye, Bye Liver," a play premised on the simply joys and complex consequences that indulging in a drink or two can bring.

"It's a sketch comedy show that is really a celebration of drinking," says the play's director Josh Dunkin, which begs the question, "What took you so long to bring it to Milwaukee?"

The answer is that, well, he doesn't have a very good answer as to why he didn't think to bring his drinking play to Brew City years ago other than he and his theater group are relatively recent transplants to the Midwest, having all hailed from Tennessee. He's still getting used to the way we do things up here.

"In the South there's a lot more of a religious influence over drinking, ruled by Bible Belt laws," he says. "People love to drink, but there's a different attitude about it. With the religious and political factors of the South, there is still a sin association with drinking."

Needless to say, he and his troupe feels quite at home here in the Midwest, and specifically Milwaukee, where drinking is more of a regular fiber woven into the social fabric. And without further ado, "Bye, Bye Liver" opens Friday, Feb. 12 at Mi-key's, 811 N. Jefferson St.

The hour and 15-minute performance follows a boisterous cast as they initiate drinking games with the audience, interspersed with sketch comedy about drinking culture. They'll, for example, examine why girls go to the bathroom in groups (They send a guy in undercover to figure it out) or what happens when "that guy" has to much liquor.

When they play Name That Tune, they play music and encourage the crowd to sing (loudly) along.

"It's just a big and outrageous comedy. We really put the audience on display during the show and you become a part of the experience of the show. All the sketches are a reflection of what the audience experiences when they go out to bars."

The whole ordeal is very fast-paced and high-energy, perhaps fueled by the fact that everyone involved is indulging. Mi-key's features $12 buckets of beer and mixed drink specials during the show and the actors, well, they've got their own social lubricants.

"We do drink," says Dunkin. "We learned our lesson early on, though. On our one-year anniversary we decided that all the alcohol in our show would be real. Needless to say, now just the beer is real -- although the show's bartender sneaks real shots in for the actors from time to time."

The Milwaukee debut of "Bye, Bye Liver" is Friday, Feb. 12 and Dunkin says the show has an open run, meaning The Pub Theater will keep performing at Mi-Key's Skylight Room every Friday and Saturday night until people stop showing up. Tickets are $12 at the door and can be purchased online at

Something tells us this is going to be a hit here in Milwaukee.

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”