Nothing about the storefront-theater experience says "You're not at Chicago Shakespeare" more than the funky bathrooms. We peek inside "the facilities" at some of our favorite Off-Loop theaters in search of the next Urinetown.
White Horse Theatre Company at the Viaduct
The Viaduct Theater, a former factory in the shadows of the Belmont and Western overpass, has bathrooms that clearly weren’t meant for long lines of theater patrons. A short, crowded hallway and doors that swing open to reveal all activities going on inside are off-putting. Yet we continue to flock there to see work by rising companies like White Horse (including Chad Weiden and Dana Tretta, above), currently showing off its impressive musical chops in The Cradle Will Rock.
Strawdog Theatre The plays are good, but we could certainly recommend the Strawdog Theatre Company for its extravagant, art-filled restrooms alone. The 18-year-old ensemble of artists (which includes actors Shannon Hoag, front, and Kat McDonnell) has set up permanent digs in a well-appointed storefront above a Mexican restaurant in north Lakeview. Catch its amped-up version of Sam Shepard’s rock & roll classic, Tooth of Crime, next month.
Chopin Theatre There’s plenty of unique decor in both the upstairs and downstairs theaters at the Chopin, which is run by husband-and-wife team Zygmunt Dyrkacz and Lela Headd. The Chopin features dynamic year-round programming, including BackStage Theatre’s Company’s current The Skin of Our Teeth. The Chopin also hosts vital storefront troupes (such as Collaboraction and Uma Productions), as well as sometimes-dazzling work of European companies, particularly from Dyrkacz’s native Poland.
Dog and Pony Theatre Company at the Athenaeum Originally an annex to neighboring St. Alphonsus Church, the Athenaeum offers the communal experience of 12 full-size urinals in a row. Among the companies holding court at the venue this month is the innovative Dog and Pony, which presents the Midwest premiere of Dennis Kelly’s Osama the Hero.