Virtual Reality | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Virtual Reality

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Virtual Reality is the first interactive comedy show with a decidedly cyberpunk sensibility. It's performed by the Upright Citizens Brigade, a comedy troupe trained in improvisation but willing to take the form places even the bold Annoyance Theatre has not gone before. The hour-long show is based on the premise that it's a demonstration in "virtual reality," that computer technology that simulates three-dimensional environments, developed at MIT's media lob, among other places, and hyped by Timothy Leary. (The motto for the show "Escape, withdraw, enjoy."--even echoes Leary's quintessential 60s shibboleth "Tune in, turn on, drop out!") Upon entering the "demonstration area," each audience member is assigned a number, during the course of the show, if your number is called, you must participate in the demonstration or face the wrath of VR's surly stun gun-toting bouncer, Slug. In past shows, audience members have been served a "virtual" meal (a dinner); they've been dragged out of the theater on a "virtual" tour of Bucktown (which was videotaped and played back later in the show); and they've participated in a "virtual" drinking contest at the "center of the earth" (one corner of the stage). In the wrong hands, this premise could get pretty tedious pretty quickly. But the guys who make up the Upright Citizens Brigade Perform with the same poker-faced commitment to their satiric premise that made the Rutles such a successful send-up of the Fab Four. Rudely Elegant Theater and Gallery, open run (1934 W. North, 296-4046). Fridays, midnight. $7.

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