"El Stories" travels familiar territory on the Red Line

It really could be any average Red Line trip from Jackson in the south Loop to Howard at the top of Chicago in Rogers Park. But the talented actors with the Waltzing Mechanics liven things up by re-enacting true “El Stories” gathered in interviews from Red Line commuters and brought to the stage at City Lit Theater.

Of course, you probably wouldn’t encounter all the characters and crazy situations that the actors retell on just one L ride, but that just makes it more fun. On this hourlong journey,you meet:

  • The homeless guy who really isn’t all that crazy; he just wants a little privacy to do No. 2 over the edge of the Jackson platform.
  • The woman putting on her makeup who cleans her rouge brush on the train seat.
  • The very large drunk guy who wakes up occasionally to comically chew on a long hoagie roll.

Like any CTA ride, there are doses of laughter and fear, near fights and sheer hilarity. The 10 ensemble members keep the pace snappy, and the familiar CTA announcer calls out the stations heading north between vignettes.

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Eleni Pappageorge holds back Eric Loughlin as he complains about her son’s lack of manners. Photo by Tyler Core

The actors solicited the final Red Line anecdote from the audience,
and stayed afterwards to tape stories that other audience members wanted
to share.

The stories unfold on the spare stage on the second
floor of the Edgewater Presbyterian Church, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr. The only
criticism I have is the Waltzing Mechanics missed an opportunity to
decorate the set walls to look more train-like. Some fun ads could have
spiced things up.

Performances start at 8 pm and will run
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday through Feb. 23. At $10 a ticket, it’s
worth the fare for such a rollicking ride.

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