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Friday, February 23

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Theater Mon Oct 10 2011

Octavarius's History Lesson: Did Mrs. O'Leary's Cow Cause the Great Chicago Fire?

"The hot cow's back!" my friend whispered to me about 30 minutes into Octavarius: Trial of the O'Leary Cow. CowOctavarius1.jpg
It's odd for a man dressed in a cow suit to be called "hot," but the costume worked for improv performer Nick Mikula. A member of comedy troupe Octavarius, Mikula played the title role in the show, staged on October 9--the 140th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire.

It's long been debated whether Mrs. O'Leary's cow actually started the devastating fire, which ran from October 8 through October 10, 1871, and destroyed more than three square miles of the burgeoning city, by kicking over a kerosene lantern. The debate played out on the ComedySportz stage, with audience members and group members holding up premade signs that read, "GUILTY," "INNOCENT," and "GOT MILK?" A jury of handpicked audience members sat on stage, watching the strange proceedings unfold.JuryOctavarius.JPGAfter the prosecutor revealed top-secret "slides" featuring the cow, Mr. and Mrs. O'Leary, and (of course) Vanna White that showed the cow purposefully kicking over the lantern, the audience jury had no choice but to convict the hot cow.FireOctavarius.JPGThe trial part of the show felt a bit disjointed. At one point, Garrison the prosecutor (played by Marc Muszynski) called an expert witness: an improv duo who called themselves the Sidekicks. "They may not be experts in fire, animal relations, or genocide," Garrison said, "but they are experts in comedy and laughter." Even though the 20-minute set split the trial awkwardly in half, one member of the duo--acting as a "reformed criminal"--pretty incredibly mimed his crime of murdering Richard Nixon with a sack of doorknobs on Space Mountain.

Ultimately, the strongest part of the show was what Octavarius does best: the improv. After the conclusion of the trial, the nine-member cast broke into about a half hour of improv, enacting scenes about really high-alcohol beverages, giant-spider-infested bushes, and clown school.

See Octavarius perform at ComedySportz (929 W. Belmont Ave.) in two upcoming murder-mystery improv shows: Octavarius: Murder at Wakefield Manor, October 16, 7pm; and Octavarius: Case of the Hindenburg Murders, October 23, 7pm.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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