I attended the premiere last night of the Factory Theater's newest wacked-out clusterfuck (and, to repeat a phrase I used in my review, I mean that in a good way), Siskel & Ebert Save Chicago (starring Scott Pasko and Chas Vrba, at right). The premise, in short, is that Mayor Daley and Roger Ebert revive a not-dead cryogenically frozen Gene Siskel, who is not just a film critic, but also the world's greatest secret agent. Siskel and Ebert are charged with stopping a plot by the nefarious Oprah Winfrey to take over the city and the world (hasn't she done that already?). Siskel is a suave ladies' man; Ebert is the schlubby second banana. (The title of this post is playwright Eric Roach's deliberate mangling of the title of Ebert's screenwriting triumph; every true film connoisseur knows the real title.) [edited to add: Well hell, I got schooled. See the comments.]
I was pleasantly surprised to find myself a few seats down from none other than the real-life Roger Ebert and his wife Chaz. Ebert is still in the midst of the extended cancer treatments that have left him temporarily unable to speak and made his first public appearance in some time just a couple of months ago. I was happy to see he'd accept an invitation to trek to a tiny theater way out on the West Side and watch a scrappy, no-budget company put on a show that kind of makes fun of him. That pretty much jibes with my image of the man. (Speaking of jibing images, Richard Roeper, who was not in attendance, is portrayed in the show as a gum-smacking class-A douchebag. And to answer the obvious question, of course the Pope-rah wasn't there. You think she has a sense of humor about herself?)
One thing I didn't have room to cover in my review was that this show features the best work I've seen yet from video and projection designer Mike Tutaj, and that's saying a lot. Tutaj seems to work for every company in town, and his stuff just gets more impressive with every outing. Here he's created an elaborate James Bond-style title sequence, with silhouetted dancers interacting with Chicago landmarks, that's just about as cool as the opening of Casino Royale. In fact, if the Factory's smart, they'll put Tutaj's opening on YouTube and use it as a trailer. [edited to add: turns out there's already a teaser trailer on YouTube.] Tutaj received a Jeff Citation at last year's ceremony in a category created to recognize him (he was the only nominee), but really the Jeff Committee ought to establish a permanent category in both wings and call it the Mike Tutaj Projection Design Award. He'll just be competing against himself every year.
I'll post a link to my review when it goes up later today. Here it is.