Frustrated by the variable attendance and meager critical attention at their off-the-beaten-track loft space at 23rd and Michigan, Cook County Theatre Department truck their brand of precision deadpan mischief to the heart of Wicker Park for a two-weekend gig. An earlier version of Burlesque premiered at Richard Foreman's Ontological Society in New York last July, but this intentionally lowbrow variety show has been reinvented and seems tailor-made for the Bop Shop's nightclub stage. Writer-director Richard Maxwell began work last summer with one question in mind: What is entertainment? As usual CCTD answers through negation, self-consciously withholding the four things that entertain Americans most: novelty, expertise, sophisticated technology, and invasions of privacy (the nightly news and Entertainment Tonight, by contrast, give us all four with relentless intensity). Like the highly influential Fluxus artists a generation ago, these performers revel in elaborate orchestrations of banality, producing theater with a hilarious "anyone could do that" feel. But Cook County's exquisite subtlety and timing--they've been an ensemble for several years--reveal just how much skill it takes to throw every scrap of talent to the wind. Bop Shop, 1807 W. Division, 842-8234. Through October 30: Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30 PM; Saturday, October 28, midnight only; Monday, October 30, 7:30 PM. $8.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jason Greenberg.