Chicago Theater Works FLANAGAN’S WAKE Review – Expect Laughter, Not Tears Here

Chicago Theater Works FLANAGAN'S WAKE
The cast of FLANAGAN'S WAKE Photo: Courtesy of Chicago Theater Works

Let’s get one thing straight - this isn’t going to be your ordinary wake. Sure, you’ll have your grieving widowed fiancée, the best friends of the deceased, a priest, and the mother. But FLANAGAN’S WAKE is going to be anything but a mournful time.

Start the Evening with A Drink

Everyone there is ready to cut loose and have a drink with their laughs. Right when you walk in the door to collect your tickets, you’re directed through a doorway and told the bar is open and to your left. There you’ll find the standard cocktails, beer, and wine list, but my advice is to go for the Guinness Irish-style. Of course you don’t need a drink; you’ll still laugh alongside everyone else.

After you’ve got your drink, you head to your table surrounded by other audience members who are ready for a good time. Everyone’s there to mourn Flanagan and there will be many toasts to his memory. One of his old drinking buddies, Brian Ballybunion, comes around to give you a name tag (which includes your name followed by the traditional “Mary” or “Patrick”). Ballybunion also has a great memory, because he remembers you from the last family gathering where your friend did a rousing rendition of Britney Spear’s Toxic.

Once you’ve got your name tag, your backstory, and everyone is settled in, the shenanigans are ready to begin.

Chicago Theater Works FLANAGAN'S WAKE
Photo: Courtesy of Chicago Theater Works

At Chicago Theater Works Audience Participation is a Must

FLANAGAN’S WAKE runs like a long-form improv show. The characters ask for suggestions from the audience and build those suggestions into longer narratives. The cast does a fantastic job of weaving the audience suggestions into their stories because at first we have no idea where their story is going until they get to that final punch line. There’s also some improv singing as well. The cast has great comedic timing and delivery.

In addition to the improv bits, there also are still some scripted elements to the show. They’re all there to tell the story of Flanagan’s death and give their view of what to do with his land. Each of the characters has a different idea - Isle Disney perhaps? But the only person who can claim this land needs to solve a mysterious riddle from Flanagan’s will. This leads to even more surprises right up until the very end.

Chicago Theater Works FLANAGAN'S WAKE
Photo: Courtesy of Chicago Theater Works

An Irish show wouldn’t be complete without a few Irish references thrown in there - a leprechaun and a drunken rendition of Danny Boy, to name a few. Overall, the show is what you’d expect from a comedy show about an Irish wake. The cast is fun and engaging and with its improv structure, no two shows will ever be the same.


Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read — Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.

Note: An excerpt of this play appears in Theatre in Chicago.


Open ended run
The performance schedule varies, so please check for up-to-date details


Chicago Theater Works
1113 W. Belmont Ave
Chicago, IL 60657



Available at or by calling 312.391.0404
Discounted tickets for groups of eight or more are sold online at under the “Group Sales” tab. For assistance with Groups for Flanagan’s Wake, please call 312.391.0404


Courtesy of Chicago Theater Works

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