It begins so unassumingly: “Man in Chair” chats informally with the audience about what theater means to him the way many of us do at home and office. The references are specific and real, often biting (“How long, Elton John, can we continue the charade?”), until we hear about an unlikely 1928 show called “The Drowsy Chaperone,” a faux musical, of course, that we begin to hear through the static of an old LP—nevermind that 78s ruled the day and LPs didn’t exist until twenty years later—before the show in his mind’s eye comes vividly and colorfully to life as a remarkable send-up of those exuberant musicals of the 1920s. Musical-theater people will love how accurate and detailed the satire actually is, accurate enough that I overheard audience members actually arguing about whether or not the show within a show was actually a musical from the 1920s or not: how much higher of a compliment could you get? These zany, overdone characters and situations are a riot, but stealing the show is the way that “Man in Chair” introduces them to us, the way he watches and interacts with them, the way he deals with interruptions of his mundane life such as ringing phones and power outages—and even scratches and skips of the LP itself—uncomfortably encroaching upon his own imagination, a world that is ultimately far more “real” than the bland reality of his, or our, own world. (Dennis Polkow)
At the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph, (312)902-1400. This production is now closed.