When the invitation arrived to visit Stage 773 for the Inoffensive Theatre Series, I was intrigued. Our girls are too old for most children’s theater productions, but not really ready for grown-up shows yet. The Inoffensive Theatre Series is described as “smart, imaginative, G-rated shows.”
Still, it was hard to describe Bri-Ko, the show we were invited to see, to our 12-year-old daughters. Here’s what we found on the Stage 773 website, “Simple tasks become riotously complicated in this non-verbal clowning-meets-sketch comedy experience. Filled with audience participation, incredible costumes, and mind-blowing props and visuals, Bri-Ko is universally appealing and fun for the whole family. You’re guaranteed to lose yourself in their joyous, upbeat world. Their all-silent, all-hilarious show won the 2014 Second City Best of the Fest Award at the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival. Nina Metz of the Chicago Tribune said, ‘If I were you, I’d do everything in my power to get a ticket!’ ”
We arrived at Stage 773 in time to walk the neighborhood a bit. We went into Cookies by Design where our girls immediately needed cookies and a drink. We walked along watching people and eating cookies.
The Stage 773 lobby has a bar, which had several pre-show patrons waiting for the doors to open. It’s part of the festival atmosphere you feel as soon as you walk in the doors. On a sunny, summer Saturday afternoon, the lobby was filled with families and individuals waiting for the show to start. It was much more crowded that I expected.
The Bri-Ko theater had small cafe tables and pub chairs along ledges. We found a great viewing area and settled in for the show. A few minutes later an actor ran from a seat near us to the stage. Bri-Ko was ready to entertain.
The next hour had the audience laughing and laughing and laughing. At one point Kri-Ko was in the middle of a sketch about working in silence. (Ok, it’s much funner that than, but it’s the best I could come up with that didn’t give away the sketch.) A little girl in the audience (think kindergarten or first grade) asked her father a question. One of the actors shot her a look that every parent recognized. It was the “be quiet now” look. Her family laughed. The audience laughed louder. It wasn’t the kind of audience participation we expected, but it was the kind of Bri-Ko/audience interaction that made the show personal.
At other times the sketch comedians went into the audience for gags that included water balloons, plastic buckets and a cooking demonstration. I won’t give away the final moments, but the audience laughed so hard people around us cried.
The Wilson Phillips song “Hold On” played a role in one sketch. Our girls spend several days trying to reenact what they saw on stage. Each time they talked about something one of the three Bri-Ko members did to make them laugh.
If there was a theme to the show, it was laughter. There were families laughing. There were young adults laughing with their groups. There were single people laughing with those around them. There were a few quiet moments at the beginning when everyone was trying to figure out what we were about to see. Once everyone realized what was happening, they settled in for a fun hour. Everyone laughed from start to finish.
The Inoffensive Theatre Series is such a unique experience that I asked Amanda Long, Stage 773 director of programs and marketing about the shows. She replied, “The drive to create the program was actually the show you saw – Bri-Ko. We adore that group and they had this terrific, family friendly (but not classically children’s theater) show… and we wanted to build a series around it. We knew there must be other ‘inoffensive’ and thoroughly enjoyable groups from all disciplines performing in the city – and there are! And yes, the audience is always a mix of adults and children. I agree with you that good, quality, inoffensive theatre is not always easy to find, but we’re doing our best to support the community and our artist’s with exactly that.”
In addition to Bri-Ko, the Inoffensive Theatre Series includes a super hero in The Adventures of Tapman and Get Inside Dance & Music presented by the Cerque Rivera Dance Company. There is truly something for everyone at a family-friendly price. Adult tickets are just $10 or $12, while tickets for children 12 and under are just $6. There is plenty of street parking, just remember to find the nearest parking meter to avoid a parking ticket.
Stage 773 is in Chicago at 1225 W. Belmont. You can find more information about the Inoffensive Theatre Series at http://stage773.com/TheInoffensiveTheatreSeries.
Shari writes about life with twins at Two Times the Fun. Image courtesy of Stage 773.
Disclaimer: I did receive media pass to experience the show. My words and opinions are my own.
Category: Shari's Corner