OFFBEAT: Lookingglass' 'Big Lake Big City' daring and funny dark romp

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-07-09T00:00:00Z 2013-07-09T00:36:08Z OFFBEAT: Lookingglass' 'Big Lake Big City' daring and funny dark rompBy Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

The television decade of the 1970s brought a range of fun and over-the-top cop and crime shows.

From "McMillan & Wife," "Police Woman" and "Columbo" to "Kojak," "Charlie's Angels" and "Baretta," the dialogue exchange between characters was always electrically charged and main characters had larger-than-life personalities.

And of course, there was always a reason to have celebrity guest stars of the week. From the likes of Ruth Gordon and Jack Cassidy playing murderers on "Columbo," to Jane Wyman as a psychic on "Charlie's Angels" and Tina Louise as a prostitute and Geraldine Page as a corrupt elected official on "Kojak," famous faces would abound.

Much of the same formula, with added clever moments and heavy on humor, are reasons why the new stage offering at Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago is so much fun.

Closing out its 25th Anniversary Season, Lookingglass Theatre Company is in the midst of the world premiere run until Aug. 11 of "Big Lake Big City," written by Keith Huff and directed by ensemble member David Schwimmer.

Lookingglass Theatre Company is located inside Chicago's historic Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan Ave. at Pearson and provides perfect stage surroundings for this dark humor two-hour drama.

Philip R. Smith plays Chicago's tough guy Detective Bass. His techniques to solve crimes are unorthodox and unpopular with many. But he always gets the job done. Plucked from the streets, his young wife, played by Katherine Cunningham, still isn't happy with herself or her life. A grisly murder of a couple in the midst of an affair at a seedy hotel changes the rules of the game for everyone, including Beth Lacke's character, a grief counselor turned TV personality with a passion for the finer things in life.

Add to all of this mob overtones and petty criminals, with a spotlight focal point centered on a valuable sculpture providing some voice-over narration throughout all the silly proceedings, and the outcome is a tale of twist and turns seasoned with funny reactions.

The rest of the cast of "Big Lake Big City" includes ensemble members Thomas J. Cox and Anthony Fleming III with Kareem Bandealy, Eddie Martinez, J. Salome Martinez and Wendy Mateo filling assorted zany characters.

Be warned there are some morbid moments played for humor. But much of what unfolds is a course in clever and imaginative storytelling for a parody of film noir.

The creative team includes Sibyl Wickersheimer, who offers an inventive scenic design for one of the most amusing "thumbnail" recreations of the Windy City streets I've ever seen. Ana Kuzmanic offers amazing costumes, with artistic associate Christine A. Binder creating just the right mood moments with lighting paired with artistic associate Rick Sims' sound/composition, and last, but certainly not least, Maria DeFabo proving herself invaluable with props, the latter ranging from faux corpses to desk knickknacks.

Performances are 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays (July 16 and 30 only) and Wednesdays, 3 p.m. (July 11, 25 and Aug. 8 only) and 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. Fridays and 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are $36 to $70 Groups of 10 or more patrons save up to 20 percent. Discounted parking is available for Lookingglass patrons at both the nearby John Hancock Center and Olympia Centre Self Park, 161 E. Chicago Ave. FYI: (312) 337-0665 or

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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