A late-night improv show with no subject off limits. $10
The audience helps performers create new improv games. $5
TV Guide continues to list Nickelodeon's wacky 80s game show Double Dare among its 60 greatest of all time, mostly due, I'd argue, to the magic of host/hair-pouf aficionado Marc Summers. Summers himself popped in for a guest appearance at ComedySportz’ Improvised Double Dare back in April, and it's too bad he wasn't able to stay awhile: the host I saw could have used a few pointers, like Know the order of your own games and Don't let on after you goof it up several times. Setting aside that sloppiness, the players are enthusiastic, and an interactive obstacle course near the end will satisfy the kiddos. Oh, and nary a drop of slime is spilled. Which in itself deserves a sliming. —Chloe Riley $5
Game-based improv from ComedySportz's house teams. $5
Part of a national chain of comedy clubs, this company is known for quick improv games (think Whose Line Is It Anyway?), but it also stages long-form improv. LCD screens and sophisticated lighting and sound systems amplify the sports-style improv of the company's eponymous production, ComedySportz. There's a snobbery in the Chicago improv community that looks up at the "art" of the long form, with its emphasis on story and characters, and down on the "entertainment" of the short, with its emphasis on games and punch lines. ComedySportz falls emphatically in the entertainment camp; its bottom line is laughter, and it gets plenty of it. The show is structured as a competition between two teams performing multiple games that require audience participation. A referee ensures that the players--a rotating roster from a company of about 50--work clean or they finish the game with a brown bag over their heads. The formula is practically foolproof: players may flash their quick wits in winning responses, but they're even funnier when they fail. In one game a team had to devise a pick-up line, each member contributing a word. Moving rapidly from player to player, the line developed: "Tonight-I'll-tango-with-your-face." Probably wouldn't work at a bar, but at ComedySportz it killed. --Ryan Hubbard $19
Work by Chicago Imagist Ed Flood (1944-1985). Reception Fri 12/12, 5-8 PM.
A collection of sketches from the year. $10
Improv and stand-up comedy by Keenan Camp and Logan Dean.
Chicago's slow-mo, spontaneous Conor McPherson play festival continues with this Irish Theatre of Chicago (formerly Seanachaí) staging of his 2004 script, about a troubled therapist and his perhaps literally haunted patient. One benefit of the McPherson phenomenon is that it helps you get to know the Dublin-based playwright's tics, tales, and preoccupations. Shining City, for instance, offers interesting echoes of Port Authority (2001) and foretastes of The Night Alive (2013). But as directed here by Jeff Christian, it can't offer much else. Used as transition music, Christian's own neofolk compositions (cowritten with Matt Kahler) stamp out every hint of momentum. His handling of a crucial surprise is oafish. And worse, he wastes the talents of Brad Armacost (the patient) and Coburn Goss (the therapist) on poorly shaped scenes. The only survivors are the two cast members who, appearing in a scene apiece, aren't hobbled by Christian's start/stop approach: Carolyn Kruse, playing the therapist's doormat girlfriend, and Shane Kenyon, gruffly sensational as a man very, very far down on his luck. —Tony Adler $26http://irishtheatreofchicago.org
The Hypocrites present Sean Graney's adaptations of Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore (see separate listing), The Mikado, and The Pirates of Penzance. $36-$50
When is an adaptation no longer an adaptation but a whole new work? This question came to me as I was experiencing the Hypocrites' latest production, described in the program as an adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan's 1878 classic H.M.S. Pinafore and presented in repertory with remounts of The Mikado and The Pirates of Penzance. Usually when directors adapt an old chestnut they monkey with the setting, putting Hamlet in 21st-century Japan, say. This can create the illusion that we're watching something new without making us think or feel anything new about the work. What director Sean Graney does with Pinafore is so daring, so thoroughgoing that it's really a total transformation. To start with, he flips genders—all the sailors and officers are women, and the maidenly love interest at the center of the plot is a man. Continue reading >> $36-$50http://the-hypocrites.com
Building a whole plot around a society's ban on flirting requires a special talent for subversive cheekiness—enter Gilbert and Sullivan. For the inhabitants of their 1885 operetta, premature seduction is an act punishable by death. Fortunately, there's very little actual death and much singing and merrymaking in this lighthearted version from the Hypocrites, where actors play their own instruments and audience members can opt to stroll alongside them (wandering minstrels we). Director/adapter Sean Graney gives us a Mikado that runs around 80 minutes. In dual roles as the Mikado's son and the curmudgeonly woman who lusts after him, actor Shawn Pfautsch makes a comedic killing in this production. See it, stroll, and enjoy a delicious language feast brought to you by two 19th-century British dudes who knew what was up. —Chloe Riley $28-$36
Longtime Chicago improviser Dina Facklis's new training program Chicago Improv Den is a tricky souffle either on the verge of rising or deflating. Facklis, an ImprovOlympic alum, started the Den last March, partly to create a troupe with an especially sharp focus on ensemble and emotional exploration and partly because, unlike iO and Second City, where students have to wait in order to perform, she sees training and performance as going hand in hand. This didn't work so well at Saturday's late-night show, where new house ensemble Bronze Medal (Facklis's first class to "graduate" from the Den) frequently fumbled over one another and struggled with pacing. But with Fackbuddies, her new show with a different improv vet as guest each week, Facklis once again delivers delicious comedic joy—this time on her own terms. —Chloe Riley $8http://chicagoimprovden.com