Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Friday, August 12

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr

« Daring Design: SAIC's Fashion Show Highlights War Baby/Love Child: Free Artist Talk Tonight with Mequitta Ahuja »

Review Wed May 15 2013

Ivywild: Part Carnival, Part History

Ivywild, the new play by the ever-audacious The Hypocrites, is part carnival, part Chicago history lesson. And it is a delightful 90 minutes of fact mixed with fantasy. The full title of the show is Ivywild, The True Tall Tales of Bathhouse John, written by Jay Torrence and directed by The Hypocrites' artistic director Halena Kays.


Photo courtesy of The Hypocrites. L to r: Ryan Walters (Kenna), Jay Torrence (Coughlin), Kurt Chiang (Little Walt).

When you walk into the lower-level performance space at Chopin Theatre, you know you are in for some fun. The set is a carousel with swings, made of faux antique materials; light bulbs are festooned everywhere. Platform pieces move around and provide performance space. Before the performance begins, two audience members are asked to don white pinafore dresses so they can participate in simulated rides in the amusement park. The audience, seated close to the action as usual in this space, feels like part of the show.

Torrence plays "Bathhouse John" Coughlin, the First Ward Alderman during the 1890s and early 20th century when the 20-square block area around Cermak Rd. and Michigan Ave. was the levee district, populated by saloons, brothels, gambling houses and plenty of corruption to fund it. Michael "Hinky Dink" Kenna, the precinct captain and later the second First Ward alderman, is played by Ryan Walters. (Until redistricting in 1923, each Chicago ward had two aldermen.) The two amass great wealth through the levee district businesses, political corruption and general debauchery.

Ivywild is the amusement park and zoo that Bathhouse John builds on a tract of land near Colorado Springs, where he has bought a second home. Coughlin meets young Walt Colburn (Kurt Chiang) there and makes him his personal assistant. Colorado, at that time, was home to hundreds of tuberculosis sanitoriums, where patients from all over the country would go to seek relief. Those are the facts on which the play is constructed.

The other characters are Anthony Courser as Princess, an alcoholic elephant in a pink tutu, with a deformed trunk, and a fantastical symbolic character named "The Amusement," sort of a tubercular mime on a respirator, played by Tien Doman. (All the cast members also perform with the Neo-Futurists, where Kays formerly directed. This suggests some interesting future possibilities for these two innovative companies.)

The playbill includes a timeline of the Ivywild/First Ward Chicago story; even if you know that period of Chicago history or read the timeline before the play starts, you may find it hard to follow the non-linear thread of the story. But no matter. Just enjoy the flow. Accept the fact that Princess may address the audience and tell the story of how she lost her trunk. ("The elevator door chopped off my nose.")

Torrence plays Bathhouse John as a song and dance man--a pol who sees himself as a poet and songwriter, as well as the creator of a grand amusement park. His sartorial flamboyance was legendary. Hinky Dink Kenna was more conservative, in dress and demeanor, and tries to push his partner to return to Chicago and pay attention to First Ward business. The pair provide a view of how Chicago won its reputation as a center for crime and corruption, even before the arrival of Al Capone.

Ivywild: The True Tall Tales of Bathhouse John runs through June 16 at the Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division. Performances are Monday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are $28 and can be purchased online. For more information, call The Hypocrites at 773-525-5981.

GB store
GB store

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 »


An Angry White Guy
AREA Chicago
ArchitectureChicago Plus
Arts Engagement Exchange
The Art Letter
Art or Idiocy?
Art Slant Chicago
Art Talk Chicago
Bad at Sports
Bite and Smile
Brian Dickie of COT
Bridgeport International
Carrie Secrist Gallery
Chainsaw Calligraphy
Chicago Art Blog
Chicago Art Department
Chicago Art Examiner
Chicago Art Journal
Chicago Artists Resource
Chicago Art Map
Chicago Art Review
Chicago Classical Music
Chicago Comedy Examiner
Chicago Cultural Center
Chicago Daily Views
Chicago Film Examiner
Chicago Film Archives
Chicago Gallery News
Chicago Uncommon
Contemporary Art Space
Co-op Image Group
Co-Prosperity Sphere
Chicago Urban Art Society
Creative Control
Devening Projects
DIY Film
The Exhibition Agency
The Flatiron Project
F newsmagazine
The Gallery Crawl...
Galerie F
The Gaudy God
Happy Dog Gallery
Homeroom Chicago
I, Homunculus
Hyde Park Artcenter Blog
Joyce Owens: Artist on Art
Julius Caesar
Kasia Kay Gallery
Kavi Gupta Gallery
Rob Kozlowski
Lookingglass Theatre Blog
Lumpen Blog
Mess Hall
Neoteric Art
Not If But When
Noun and Verb
On Film
On the Make
Peanut Gallery
Peregrine Program
The Poor Choices Show
Pop Up Art Loop
The Post Family
The Recycled Film
Reversible Eye
Rhona Hoffman Gallery
Roots & Culture Gallery
The Seen
Sisterman Vintage
Site of Big Shoulders
Sixty Inches From Center
Soleil's To-Do's
Sometimes Store
Stop Go Stop
Storefront Rebellion
TOC Blog
Theater for the Future
Theatre in Chicago
The Franklin
The Mission
The Theater Loop
Thomas Robertello Gallery
Time Tells Tony Wight Gallery
Uncommon Photographers
The Unscene Chicago
The Visualist
Western Exhibitions
What's Going On?
What to Wear During an Orange Alert?
You, Me, Them, Everybody
Zg Gallery

GB store



A/C on Flickr

Join the A/C Flickr Pool.

About A/C

A/C is the arts and culture section of Gapers Block, covering the many forms of expression on display in Chicago. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Nancy Bishop,
A/C staff inbox:



A/C Flickr Pool
 Subscribe in a reader.

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15