Factor Theater is Transformed Into a Bar
We’re at a karaoke bar—where inhibitions and pretense are in short supply. Even before the doors open, we are hearing the beer and shot fueled revelry within. With an exquisite eye for detail—and one imagines days of scouring Chicago’s resale stores for treasures—scenic designer Manuel Ortiz’ touch goes a long way to put us in the mood, though luckily we aren’t asked to grab the mic. It feels dark and dank but homey, that is, if your basement has taxidermy touches of squirrel and buffalo heads in opposing corners. These are almost lost in the poster, photos and more that shout MEMORIES.
This particular bar is in Cleveland. As we walk in so do some of the cast, though we aren’t quite clear who’s who at first. The time is recent, which we get by the pile on of references to LeBron James, the musical hits the regulars are nostalgic for, the happy mix of trans and cis-gender, the woke buddied with political correctness allergic. Most of all, it is the circa now for this rust belt Karaoke Camelot feeling the figurative wrecking ball threatening to render it history.
You too might find yourself easily trained to smile with anticipation whenever the dialogue stops to allow an off-key ham it up karaoke turn at the mic. These performances fade into silent mime as the dialogue elsewhere in the bar takes over. In this writer’s view, playwrights Mike Beyer and Kirk Pynchon’s script has a sitcom feel, with no surprises, but TONS of grist for the laugh track. We learn about a new genre of San Diego jokes, we laugh along at jabs at cider sipping yuppies, and the lampoons of the woke trying to rouse the Rip Van Winkle who lives next door. If one can imagine a place where those who feel the Bern live happily with MAGA red hats, it would be here. This is NOT a “basket of deplorables”. Think instead, basket of adorables— a collection of diverse personalities that bond around music, shots and beer for whom you instantly feel affection.
Every actor does their part ,and the ensemble is tight (Director: Kim Boler). This writer predicts that by play’s end, even non-beer drinkers will crave a swig, and relish the tingle on their tongue of how the bad guy entrepreneur, Miles (Phillip Zimmermann) manages to mangle pronunciation of “Schlitz”.
Playwrights Pynchon and Beyer have given us lovable characters, and a snapshot of a world vanishing into the whoosh of rapid globalization. For a chock full of laugh good time, LAST NIGHT IN KAROAKE TOWN is a top pick. If you are seeking a theater experience that will rattle your cage, this isn’t your show.
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
Wendy Hayne (Diana), Ashley Yates*(Shannon), Genna Ellis (Audrey), Samantha Porter (Lilly), Abbie Warhus(Fran), Sal Gado(Shawn), Kirby Gibson (Eveline), Conor Clark (Brad), Michael Jones* (Ted), Philip Zimmermann (Miles), Chase Wheaton-Werle (Kenny), Tommy Bullington(Ethan), Cristiana Barbatelli(Diana U/S), Ty Aldridge (Ethan U/S), Elyssa Treviño (Lilly/Audrey U/S), Alex DiVirgilio (Kenny/Brad U/S), Jennifer Betancourt* (Shannon U/S) and Blake Holen (Ted/Miles U/S).
Kim Boler* (director), Mike Beyer*(writer), Kirk Pynchon† (writer), Emma Cullimore (costume designer), Elli Humphrys(lighting designer), Becca Holloway (associate director/music director), C.W. van Baale* (master electrician), Evan Sposato (technical director), Manny Tamayo* (production manager), Wyatt Kent (props designer), Manuel Ortiz (set designer), Maya Jain (scenic charge), Sarah D. Espinoza** (sound designer) andPhil Claudnic* (stage manager).
Through March 28, 2020
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
and Sundays at 3 p.m.
Runs time 90 minutes with no intermission.
1623 W. Howard St.
About the Author: Amy Munice
Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.
Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.