Review: Immersive Flotsam and Jetsam, Karaoke, and Cocktails at Whim Chicago

What are theater artists doing when creative offerings are transformed post-COVID? What do theatrical spaces become in this restart of life after the coronavirus? The creators are going to create, here with a new experience called Whim Chicago, an immersive “art on art” experience, sort of like a year-round haunted house.

What used to be the Theater Building, later Stage 773, at 1225 W. Belmont in Lakeview, a performance complex with three stages, a grand lobby, and a bar, is now an event space with plenty of visual appeal on every surface throughout. throughout several rooms to accompany your partying and conversation.

The venue should be a welcome newcomer to the birthday or bridal shower crowd, or as a unique office event option, in case your employer still has the right to force you and your co-workers to have fun and teamwork.

Stepping inside, the previous iconic lighting fixtures, kitchen strainer spheres, have been replaced by the rather low ceilings of an intimate cocktail bar serving a variety of mostly sweet drinks, including the Nosy Rosey (prosecco and lemon juice). pomegranate with a dash of rose). water) and the Fluffy Punch (rum, pineapple juice, raspberry syrup topped with cotton candy), along with a small selection of beer (draft, cans, and bottles) and wine (by the glass or bottle), but no specials of food.

While drinking liquid fortification, patrons can walk or sit in the Lobby of Second Chances. The open space (with less claustrophobic ceilings) is decorated with a 3D explosion of found objects like action figures, paper airplanes, and ladders, with a seating nook with clocks.

Nearby is the Enchanted Forest venue, also filled with ephemera, with a stage for performances, including karaoke on Thursdays, plus improv, stand-up comedy, and music on the weekends, with acts like Bear Williams, Street Jaxkson, and the Low Expectations Band.

Time (or lack thereof) is a recurring theme throughout the venue, and especially with the 30-minute timed tour of what used to be the performance stages. Now a collection of wacky rooms and interactive moments, time as the “last equalizer” is portrayed for the first time in graffiti. Originally tagged by real artists, participants are now encouraged to make their own marks with Sharpie doodles.

Next is the sepia-toned room of the creepy dolls, where the hidden creator reminds that “perfection is a waste of time.”

A hidden door leads to a decidedly Disney-inspired lounge turned on its side, followed by another avalanche of clocks to the delight of savers. (There was some weather-themed music in the rooms during the ride, but I kept wishing for Pink Floyd time.)

An aisle of stacked books, sculpted like arches, looked like a tribute to Little Free Library.

The blacklit Self-Reflection space was next, inhabited by wall monsters (“what did we create in our heads?” the curator asked), then the Time to Play room, replete with colorful Wonder Bread cum Twister dots. primaries, hanging paper lanterns. and Slinkys, and a working piano.

There’s a morgue with slots in the wall and a metal gurney, inviting viewers to write and leave a toe tag, asking “what would you leave behind?” (Many had spelled “bitches,” but my contribution was “Spanx.”) Finally, the tour ends in a garbage can fire of wishes, complete with pennies to throw, mixing change over time.

The experience is a celebration of reuse (objects, identities, vocations) in the variety of trinkets from a grandmother’s house. Impermanence is a crucial consideration these days, with pandemics, the climate crisis, and the seemingly unstoppable rise of kakistocracy.

Time should help polish this unique undertaking, as hopes for 21st century gender inclusions to be employed. The introduction of “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” should instead become “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” A wardrobe would be nice to feel completely free between showings during the winter months. The cotton candy drink topping should be placed on the rim, not touching the drink, so that the drinker has the pleasure of watching the spun sugar disappear. Unfortunately, I was not able to see the death of my dental floss in real time.

“Whim” is open Thursday through Saturday from 6 pm to 2 am for ages 18 and up. Non-refundable tickets are $25 (+ $5 processing fee) and include a free signature mock or cocktail, immersive tour, and shows in the Enchanted Forest. The space at 1225 W. Belmont is located just west of the Belmont CTA stop and street parking is limited. For information about groups and accessibility, please send an email.

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