Arts & Entertainment

All aboard for late-night comedy

Photo courtesy of Waltzing Mechanics

We’ve all been there. Whether it’s 30 minutes of sitting next to a drunk guy sleeping or being smashed in between screaming Cubs fans, some El rides make us question whether we should have just waited in the shuttle line that stretched down the block.

Thanks to Waltzing Mechanics‘ newest play, El Stories, you finally get to laugh about all of those CTA frustrations. Nine actors perform various short skits of true El nightmares at The Greenhouse Theater Center (2257 N. Lincoln Ave.).

Performing its 17th iteration, El Stories will have you laughing off your seat with hilarious and relatable Chicago transportation stories.

Upon entering theater two at the Greenhouse, two cast members greeted the audience and asked for personal El stories.

The actors then put the audience members’ names in a hat and informed them that there could possibly be audience involvement later in the show — and who doesn’t love audience participation?

This immediately generated more excitement for the show and added a personal element. But the anticipation of possibly sharing a story with the rest of the audience had to wait, however, as cast members kicked off the show by performing other funny, nightmarish CTA stories.

For each skit, a cast member narrated a small story while his/her fellow actors performed in a rectangle structure sitting upon the stage.

The structure had pipes with seats extending from them, looking like a real CTA bus or train. This way, the audience was looking at a see-through structure that was not only realistic but also easily visible.

The first skit was narrated by actress Alison Sweat, a small brunette with a brace on one of her ankles. As she told her story, the actors performed the tragic events of her character, Sarah, getting elbowed in the nose on a rocky bus ride.

Although Sweat’s narration was a bit shaky, the actors managed to pull off a good skit with exaggerated movements and witty dialogue. Since Sarah was hit by a larger African American lady, the crux of the humor came with the line “You gotta watch out for us because we got RANGE.”

With a sassy snap from the actress playing the African American woman, the skit ended as the audience burst into laughter.

The next skit started before the audience could even breathe from their bouts of laughter. The skits continued, with each being funnier than the last.

The actors took on a diverse cast of characters (since any CTA ride will have a diverse group of people), and the performers were able to step into the multiple roles with ease.

Actor David Kaplinsky should be especially recognized for his comical performance as he took on some of the wackiest roles in all of the skits.

From a taxi driver to an ATM to a pregnant lady, Kaplinsky’s characters alone could have kept the audience laughing for an hour.

Yet Kaplinsky had the troupe of actors to help him out, and the combined humor resulted in a late Saturday night full of laughter.

Altogether, the play featured 13 skits, 12 of which had been previously scripted.

The funniest skit, however, came from the audience member whose name was drawn out of the hat at the entrance.

The audience member briefly told her story to the cast and the audience.

Afterwards, she cast the actors for her skit, and they completely improvised her story.

Actors brought to life the real and treacherous story of a drunk man getting into a fight with a meth head, resulting in some spilled beer.

The audience member chose the small and sweet-looking actress, Eliza Helm, to play the drunk man.

Despite her small stature and perceived innocence, Helm stepped up to the plate and played the part better than any real drunk man you’d find on the CTA.

The late night comedy was worth the trip to Lincoln Park (and all the sneers from DePaul kids).

Each skit of El Stories told a hilarious and/or treacherous tale that was so bizarre you knew it could have only come from the CTA.

El Stories runs through November 22 at Greenhouse Theater Center (2257 N. Lincoln Ave.). Tickets cost $20 and are available for purchase here.

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Layne Hillesland is a senior communication student at Loyola University Chicago and the current Arts & Entertainment Editor for The PHOENIX.

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