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Friday, April 11, 2014

Chicago's Public House Theatre to present hit "Bouncers"

  
By ERIC SCHELKOPF
 
The Public House Theatre continues to stage productions designed to keep audiences glued to their seats.
 
Starting April 17, The Public House Theatre, 3914 N. Clark St. (at Byron Street), Chicago, will present John Godber’s hit “Bouncers.” Shows are at 8 p.m. every Thursday, Friday and Saturday through May 17. Tickets are $15, available by calling 1-800-650-6449, or at www.pubhousetheatre.com.
 
I had the chance to talk to director Chris Geiger about the show. 
 
 
Q - Great talking to you. "Bouncers" has been a popular play since opening in 1977. What made you want to direct the play?

I think every director has a few "bucket list" shows that they would want to put up if given the opportunity to do so. "Bouncers" has always been a bucket list show for me, and when I was brought on as producer for The Public House Theatre a little over a year ago, I had a very rare opportunity to put it up. 
 
 
I've been fond of "Bouncers" since I originally performed in a production of it in 2007. It's a play that, to me, embodies everything I love about live theater - it's dynamic, well paced, and simply just fun to watch. 
 
It's an experience you can't get at home or anywhere else.

Q - The play usually features four men, but you decided to cast two men and two women in the play. What made you want to go in a different direction? How do you think audiences will respond to the change if they have previously seen the play?

One of my favorite things about "Bouncers" is how adaptable it is to wherever and whenever you perform it. A lot of the themes it hits are truly timeless - we've all had varying experience with drinking to excess, going to bars and clubs, and trying eagerly to find someone to go home with. 
 
 
I think part of that adaptability also is in casting. While the play is traditionally done with four men, the script doesn't exactly call for that to be true. 
 
The cast plays a little more than 20 characters in total over the course of the show, all of varying genders and ages. And, as we went into process, we found that there are moments in the show that are actually more interesting and entertaining with the gender flip. 
 
I think people who have seen a production of it before will be pleasantly surprised with the results.

Q - How else do you think your production is different from past productions? For those not familiar with the show, what should they expect? 

Every production of "Bouncers" is truly unique, as there is no "right" way to put up the play. The script is fully adaptable - there are only a few "absolutes" in terms of blocking or staging. 
 
For example, the script calls for the Bouncers to perform part of Michael Jackson's "Thriller," a strange aside during a very heady moment of the play - and this is an absolute must! But the scenes leading up to these pillar moments are flexible and fresh depending on the cast's perspective. 

 
Because of this, the show will feel absolutely new for someone who has seen it before.

For those who haven't seen a production of "Bouncers," expect a high energy whirlwind night of drinking and debauchery with four amazingly talented performers who will escort you through a world of excess and bad judgment. The head bouncer, Eric, refers to this as a "midnight circus," and I can't think of a more appropriate description than that!

Q - You are also one of the founding members of The Nerdologues. How did the idea for the group come about? As a humorist, what do you find funny and what your favorite topics to talk or write about?

The Nerdologues began a little over four years ago after my fellow Public House producer, Kevin Reader, noticed during our informal sketch writing sessions with some friends that we enjoyed sharing our unfortunate stories about growing up as nerds more than writing sketches at the time. He got a few of us together to write down these stories, then we wrote some sketches to kinda "pad" out a show - a sort of "Vagina Monologues" of nerdiness. 
 
 
It's sort of evolved from there, and now we put up original productions (still with a monologue or two in there!) with varying themes or stories, as well as events, multiple podcasts, and weekly videos. Our mission now is "bring nerds together, and make nerds laugh," since that is basically how we came to exist in the first place.

From a writer perspective, I find humor in layering absurdity on common experiences, a fairly simple comedy choice. I also think that the most hilarious thing you can do on stage is bend over, split your pants, then sit down in a chair and have it break out from under you. 
 
Might as well end your show right there.

Q - It seems like Chicago is a great breeding ground for comedians. Why do you think that is? Is Second City a big factor?

Chicago is very cold and can be rough, and we need to laugh to warm ourselves up. Second City is a huge factor in bringing talent to Chicago, obviously, as are the many great comedians that have come out of our fair city. 
 
People come here to follow in their footsteps and go off to do great things themselves. It's a never ending cycle of funny bits and hard work.