Reviewed by Jasleen Jaswal Vines
No matter how long you live in the same city, you’re going to have that moment when you realize you haven’t done that one thing everyone else seems to have checked out. Eventually, a friend comes to town, or you’re flipping through the Reader/Time Out Chicago/Metromix trying to find something to do, or a friend invites you along, and you wind up at that store or restaurant or venue you passed a million times with every intention of visiting.
Theater on the Lake is one of those places – it’s that brown building next to the on-ramp at Fullerton Avenue on Lake Shore Drive. Operated by the Chicago Park District, Theater on the Lake is open in the summer and offers a unique venue to check out one of Chicago’s best features, its performing arts scene. For its 60th anniversary season, Theater on the Lake is featuring eight artistically diverse Chicago theater companies, each with a run of five days. Don’t let the title mislead you – the lake is not on display inside the theater, which is what I imagined: actors performing against the backdrop of a serene body of water. Fortunately, the venue sells booze so you can get over the missing view with a beer or six (the crowd at my show was feeling awfully boozy for a Wednesday).
Booze and improv go well together, in my experience, especially for a fun set by TJ & Dave. This was my first time seeing a long-form Harold rather than the more commonly known sketch-based improv (another instance of “I should check out that thing my fellow locals are always talking about”). I picked the right duo for my introduction to the form. TJ Jagodowski and David Pasquesi are brilliant at finding the absurdist humor in everyday life. The show I saw delved into paranoia over getting in trouble from an unspecified authority figure, awkwardness in dealing with an ex every damn day at work, and the false cheer of spicing up a sucky job by finding an excuse to write an incident report. Their chemistry and interplay is terrific, which shouldn’t be a surprise, as they’ve performed together for years and won numerous awards for this show. Theater on the Lake did well in choosing TJ & Dave as part of their cross-section of Chicago theater. Opening act Ike Reilly kicks off the evening with a half-hour set. The sparse stage setting is perfect for his guitar, amp, harmonica, and dark, wistful songs about love, war, and the future.
THREE WORDS: Improv explainer Geoff calls it “solid long-form”.
Running time: 1 and ½ hours with one 10 minute intermission
At Theater on the Lake
For show and ticket information, please visit Theater on the Lake’s website.
Pro-tip: unless you like driving in circles around Lincoln Park looking for a free spot and then grudgingly ponying up to park at the zoo, I highly recommend biking down along the lakefront or taking public transit.