Beer and Pretzels Theater | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Beer and Pretzels Theater 

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BEER AND PRETZELS THEATER, This Week in Joe's Basement, at the Organic Theater Company. Just because something takes place in a theater doesn't mean it's theater. You can play badminton in a football stadium, but that doesn't make it football. This Week in Joe's Basement's presentation of Beer and Pretzels Theater might be a lot of things, but theater it ain't. Though it bills itself as an "interactive multimedia show," it's really nothing more than a cable-access TV show broadcast in the Organic Theater, accompanied by a talented crew of musicians who sound like the bastard offspring of the B-52's and John Zorn's Naked City.

For those not in the know (like me), This Week in Joe's Basement is a local cable-access TV series produced on the slimmest of shoestring budgets, featuring doofy improv skits, meandering surrealistic narratives, and man-on-the-street interviews, all hosted by the beer-chugging, pretzel-snacking, twentysomething, quasi-intellectual Joe Winston out of his parents' Hyde Park basement. The program has a certain brain-dead stoner appeal and garners a few easy laughs at the expense of the folks Winston picks off the street to interview about subjects ranging from UFOs to the Persian Gulf.

The late-night show at Organic boasts some cool music, but it's almost entirely highlights from the TV show on a big screen. You keep waiting for the live-action segments to begin, but with the exception of a silly audience-participation gimmick the night I attended (I was serenaded by the band and offered a ceremonial 12-pack of Bud) they never do. And frankly, when I go to the theater I'd rather not watch television, especially when I can't even change the channel. At least I now know what I'm missing by not being wired for cable.

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