- "Best of the Fringe"
- -Chicago Tribune
- "Best Bet!"
- "If half the tavernous chats I've sat through had been this lively or funny, I'd count myself lucky."
- -Chicago Reader
- "Interesting and entertaining"
- -Real Chicago Magazine
- "Top 5 Site-Specific Shows"
- -Newcity Chicago
- "As bracing and welcome as the first sip of a cold beer."
- -Chicago Tribune
- -Time Out Chicago
- "A low key show that translates into high intensity eavesdropping for the audience."
- -Chicago Tribune
- "On par with reading Bill Simons' 'Now I can Die in Peace' or watching a DVD box set of 'Cheers'."
- -Real Chicago Magazine
August 12, 2005 :: Brian Nemtusak
Recommended by the Chicago Reader
The concept-four guys in a bar improvise a conversation in a bar-won't set the world on fire. But if half the tavernous chats I've sat through had been this lively or funny, I'd count myself lucky. The cast handily brandish wicked-hahd accents to convey the Beantown locale, which helps lift this improv above the everyday, and they've mastered a trick few improvisers-or alleged conversationalists-seem able to get down: keeping the ball bouncing without hogging it. The night I attended the show it was a short, sharp blast, balancing visits to the intertwined issues of dick size and foreign policy with loftier thoughts on planned obsolescence and diminishing returns.
October 21, 2005 :: Nina Metz
All the world's a stage, particularly when the world in question is found within the tight, hermetic confines of your local watering hole--where the lights are low and the clientele lower. A couple of site-specific shows in Lakeview lean heavily on this axiom, with results as bracing and welcome as the first sip of a cold beer.
The appeal lies in that each show is performed in an actual working bar. Do not underestimate the importance of this; it's plenty nice to get out of the theater, especially if--and let's just be frank about it--your inclination is to go to a bar, anyway.
Over at Town Hall Pub, a decidedly more downscale kind of place with a pleasantly cavelike atmosphere and cheap drinks (can't beat the $3.50 vodka lemonade), a group of Boston-bred improvisers, operating under the auspices of Wicked Good Productions, convene on Friday nights for "Dirty Water."
Set in a South Boston bar--sorry, South Bahston bah--that plays host to the kind of chumps ready to step in if they ever make a sequel to "Good Will Hunting," the entirely improvised show is a case study of excremental discourse. And I mean that as high praise.
"What's the one trip you just have to take?" prompts a digression about the Egyptian pyramids, which elicits, "I would not go anywhere in Egypt without Brendan Fraser," and the absurdly right-on-the-money observation that "the Mayan pyramids are the Knott's Berry Farm of pyramids."
This is a low-key show that translates into high-intensity eavesdropping for the audience. And though the cast is more than capable of keeping the conversation going past the one-hour mark, wisely they don't.
By the way, the Town Hall Pub, which is something of an unofficial hangout among improv performers, is not a bad place to watch the Sox. Kudos to the staff who kept the TVs on (though muted) during the show.
December 30, 2005 :: Nina Metz
Flush with their celebrity connections and cash-rich ways--not to mention swanky climate-controlled venues--high-profile theater companies such as the Goodman and the Steppenwolf are, without question, the marquee players in town.
The lifeblood of Chicago's theater scene, however, operates on the fringe. This is where new talents often emerge and experiments in theater frequently take shape.
Alternating weekly in this section, Kerry Reid and I review the storefront theater scene as a category worthy of its own distinction. And while the scene may be diverse, there is one common denominator: With budgets ranging from small to ultra small, the theater is considerably scrappier out here on the fringe. Ingenuity is king, and the most compelling productions of the year used this to their advantage. And great acting can make you forget just how jury-rigged a show really is.
Never underestimate the power of a site specific show to elevate an experience from predictable to truly memorable. There were a number this year, including "Bottle Can Draft" and "Dirty Water" both performed in bars; "Psycho-So-Matic," an abstract piece of whimsy performed in a Laundromat, and a production of John Patrick Shanley's romantic bruiser; "Danny and the Deep Blue Sea" performed in director Michael Rice's Uptown apartment and featuring a naked actor who climbed out on a window ledge to howl at the moon. Now that's theater.
Real Chicago Magazine
September 2006 :: Paul M. Banks
For many people, the Revolutionary War was their favorite part of U.S. history class, and this world-shifting event still inspires theatre of all kinds 230 years later.
The Revolution may not be televised, but it is discussed over beers at Dirty Water, a fictional South Boston bar serving as the backdrop for a current show of the same name. It's also powerfully depicted in "The General from America," running until Oct. 8 at the TimeLine Theatre (615 W. Wellington).
I attended both the 45-minute comedic improv, which shows at the Town Hall Pub, and the two-hour drama, highlighting the inner struggles of the Revolutionary War's infamous traitor, Benedict Arnold. Both are interesting and entertaining, although they contrast sharply in their methods for captivating the audience. "Dirty Water" is more lighthearted and geared toward the 20-to-30-something set. "The General from America" is better suited for the intellectual and socially conscious demographic.
One if by land, two if by sea, three bucks a beer
The appropriately named Wicked Good Productions opens "Dirty Water" with the Stendalls' paean of the same name. You might know it as the song played after a Red Sox victory at Fenway Park. The fun begins with Sully, the bartender (played by Adam Desjardins), asking the audience, "What's stuck in your craw?" A patron responded "Global warming," and the show's wide range of discussion topics began to stray much farther from the film "An Inconvenient Truth" than I ever thought possible. However, Al Gore's name was mentioned twice. The subject matter varies greatly within each show and usually has something for everyone; this evening's improv had many 1776 related talking points, including the "Lexington Green."
The man leading the conversational minutemen was Patrick McDonough, a snarky convenient store owner played by Matthew Hicks, the man who conceived the show. McDonough is always clad in New England Patriots gear; not the current "flying Elvis in a tri-corner hat" silver and blue apparel, but the retro lobster red, which features a logo looking like the colonists in "The General from America." He offered, "I'm going to get a tattoo that says F--k Paul Revere. He's only remembered because Longfellow knew his name rhymes with shit," and "William Dawes was just as important."
Of course, McDonough's more reverent buddies then notified him how Dawes rhymes with "supporting the cause" and "threw off the jaws... of oppression." Later, Ralph Waldo Emerson's "shot heard 'round the world" hyperbole was trumped by Dirty Water's "just walk in and shoot is a lot better than just walk in and get shot."
While five guys shooting the breeze may seem like a banal concept, the observations and opinions stated here are anything but. I doubt that any of my friends could transition as smoothly from obscure Revolutionary War hero Jonas Clark to the posters found in every college girl's apartment. These were all dead on, but they missed the uber-ubiquitous Van Gogh "Starry Starry Night." The originality and uniqueness of each set is what makes the humor work. The dialogue will be appreciated by more than just transplanted New Englanders because what's said here could be said anywhere. However, it would likely be more predictable than what I heard here. I could bar hop for the next 60 years and not hear anyone referred to as "the Benjamin Franklin of the anti-polar bear revolution" again. Jon Dick, who plays Perle Parlon, commented on how this show about Red Sox fans in Southie succeeds in the Wrigleyville neighborhood full of Cub fans.
"There's a similar vibe; there's a good-time vibe in both Boston and Chicago and a connection with all those similar die-hard fans," Dick says before elaborating on the improvisation process. "We take a suggestion and just run with it. We don't always have a similar point of view, and we make those differences part of our characters." To reach a better understanding of Bostonians and their role in Americana, "Dirty Water" is on par with reading Bill Simmons' "Now I can Die in Peace" or watching a DVD box set of "Cheers." However, this is the only live option. See it at 8 p.m. Fridays at 3340 N. Halsted. Call (773) 404-2555 or visit www.dirtywaterimprov.com.
April 7, 2006 :: Nick A. Zaino III
Tonight at midnight, the Dirty Water improv troupe will afford audiences the rare opportunity to see five guys talk Red Sox around a Southie bar. OK, maybe that's not so rare here, but it is in Chicago, where the troupe's Boston-themed show opened last year to positive reviews from the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Reader. The show makes its Boston debut tonight at Improv Asylum's North End theater before returning to Chicago for a spring run at the Town Hall Pub.
So why should Bostonians fork over hard-earned cash to eavesdrop on pub talk? ''People should see our show because we're not just your average dudes talking in a bar, we're trained comedians talking in a bar," says troupe member Adam Hyman.
"Dirty Water" features five characters -- a bartender, a GE line worker, an English professor, a convenience store owner, and a middle-school teacher -- based loosely on the actors portraying them. Sports is the show's starting point, but don't expect an hourlong debate on that evening's ballgame. "Sometimes it can be very sports-heavy, we mention Boston a decent amount of times, but the conversation can really go anywhere," says Hyman. ''It can get political, it can get personal."
Hyman, Matt Hicks, Adam Desjardins, and Jon Dick all grew up in Boston and met at UMass-Amherst, where they were part of the college improv scene -- and, of course, were diehard Sox fans. Rich King, a Louisiana native and not a Sox fan, endures frequent conversion attempts by the other four. But the Boston link is what defines the group. ''That's what sets us apart from a lot of other improv groups," Hyman says, ''is that we do have that identity as Boston guys."
Their sports allegiance has been surprisingly helpful in finding a fan base, as Red Sox Nation sprawls into the Midwest. ''There's a lot of Red Sox fans out here in Chicago that we reach out to," says Hyman. ''Last year they played out at Wrigley Field, so we went to Wrigley and promoted the show there and gave out fliers and postcards to every guy we saw that had a Red Sox hat."
The cast's knowledge of all things Sox and Boston will be tested now that they're bringing the show back here. ''In Chicago, we're given that leeway that nobody knows the difference between Southie and living in the area around Newbury Street," says Hyman. They've already heard from one Southie resident who corrected the way a character bio listed the streets in his neighborhood on the group's website. "He basically said you're describing your streets all wrong, there's no accuracy in your bio," says Hyman. "That's just a reminder that we need to know what we're talking about."
August 25, 2005 :: Mark Sinclair
Boston Brewin' - "A lot of people have bars in their homes," says Matt Hicks, referring to the set of his improvised show, Dirty Water. "We have a bar in a bar." Tucked into a back corner of Town Hall Pub is a reasonable facsimile of a divey watering hole in South Boston-complete with Larry Bird poster and retired Red Sox numbers hanging on the wall. It's there that Hicks, along with three friends from his hometown and one guy from Louisiana, make up an hour-long conversation that could be heard at any such establishment. Although it's sometimes difficult to tell one character from the next, and there's the occasional awkward pause, the show definitely makes for some amusing eavesdropping.