Last Night In Karaoke Town is a raucous Rust Belt showdown | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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Last Night In Karaoke Town is a raucous Rust Belt showdown

A Cleveland bar faces gentrification in Factory's latest.


UPDATE Saturday, March 14, 7:30 PM: this event canceled performances for Saturday, March 14 and Sunday, March 15. Contact box office to confirm performances past this weekend and for information about refunds/exchanges.

I guess a bad play could be written about the hostile overthrow of a Cleveland Heights karaoke bar at the hands of a hard-cider magnate named Ethan, whose business card says, "purveyor of fine spirits and sophisticated settings." I don't see how, though. Some ideas are just too good. Regardless, Mike Beyer and Kirk Pynchon haven't written that bad play. Factory Theater's Last Night in Karaoke Town, directed by Kim Boler, is a fantastic play, one that gets to the heart of so many issues that matter, such as what varieties of taxidermy should be allowed in bars (squirrels? buffalo?), who gets to sing Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn" when both Audrey and Lily claim it as "mine, bitch," and whether the rusted-out factory your dad used to work in getting rebuilt as an REI is OK if you happen to like shopping at REI. You know, the important stuff.

The rainbow of die-hards hanging out at owner Diana's joint could carry a production by themselves, so rife are they with quirks and infighting and opinions about Van Halen. And then you have Ethan, played by Tommy Bullington, who saunters in one fine day with his crates of pear cider and long black shawl to inform Diana (Wendy Hayne) that he's bought the building and intends to refine its spirits and sophisticate its settings. What follows is a raucous showdown between the dual opposing forces of innovation and authenticity. I can't say who wins. I can say that I laughed so hard at everything Bullington did that I thought I would be asked to leave the theater.  v

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