OFFBEAT with PHIL POTEMPA: New Windy City Playhouse opens with 'End Days'

Windy City Playhouse is the newest theater performance space in Chicago to entice audiences with something new.

The intimate and elegant venue at 3014 W. Irving Park Road not far from Wrigley Field offers something, that at this moment, doesn’t exist anywhere else in Chicago theater.

Patrons not only can enjoy a sophisticated bar and plush seating surrounding the performance area, but there is also server service and tables with all of the seats, along with a complete menu of delicious offerings from small bite plates and desserts to custom craft cocktails and a wide variety of wine and beer.

The Playhouse is led by John Morris, who has had distinguished careers in both professional theater and architecture, along with Artistic Director Amy Rubenstein.

In 1986, he founded a Chicago architectural firm, where he designed several residential and commercial projects. He headed the firm’s theater design division, leading design teams for several adaptive re-use and new construction on theater projects, including the new home for the internationally known Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Other Morris-designed spaces that enhance Chicago’s off-Loop theater districts include Lookingglass Theatre at Chicago Water Tower Pumping Station, the Beverly Art Center, Raven Theatre and the Chicago Center for the Performing Arts.

It should come as no surprise that guests are wowed the moment of arriving in the lush lobby, with chandeliers, fireplace and rich decor.

There are two distinct seating types, each one a comfortable way to experience live performance:

Top Shelf ($30 – $45, depending on performance day) — The top shelf seats are swivel lounge chairs close to the stage separated by contemporary side tables. Top Shelf is a great option for small groups as it allows you to turn in and socialize with friends.

House ($15 – $25, depending on performance day) — The house seating is a slightly more traditional rowed-style seating, but still extremely comfortable. These movie theater seats are a bit wider and more plush than most, and best of all, they have cupholders and a small shelf to hold drinks and snacks.

The inaugural production opening this space is a run of the play “End Days” by Deborah Zoe Laufer and directed by Henry Godinez and playing through April 26.

Running two hours and 20 minutes, which includes a 20-minute intermission, I wasn’t as impressed with this convoluted and contrived play as I was with this new opulent space of future artistic opportunities.

The cast includes the capable Keith Kupferer and Tina Gluschenko, who always rank as two of my stage favorites. He plays the long suffering, depressed out-of-work husband opposite her role as a wife and mother who has recently become a reborn-Christian and is convinced the end of the world is just days away and it is up to her to save her family, which also includes her downer daughter, overplayed by Sari Sanchez and her goofy Elvis-obsessed friend, really overplayed by Stephen Cefalu Jr.

Add to all of this cameo figment-of-the-imagination appearances by Jesus and wheelchair genius Stephen Hawking, played with a cardboard performance by Steven Strafford, with the result being, even before the first hour was over, I was already looking at my watch.

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