Review “We Gotta Bingo” (Chicago Theater Works): Has a way to G-O to be a Winner!

Chicago Theater Works presents the interactive dinner experience WE GOTTA BINGO.

Upon arrival, the atmosphere is festive. A band is playing polka-style music. The proprietor, clad in leder-hosen and an Alpine hat, beckons people to get their drink on.  Beer posters and knick-knacks plaster the room.  A throne is perched against the wall. We’ve entered the German beer hall, Der Brew-Ha-Ha.  Sister Gigi (played by a radiant Susan Wingerter) issues name tags and points us to Table 7. 

Table 7 isn’t lucky for Bingo.  It’s to the right of the stage and behind the action but with the full benefit of the amplified speakers.  In the olden days of glamorous nightclubs, this is the table the band would sit at between sets. Mine will be more of radio review since I couldn’t see any performances on stage.  Other tables, in the wings, had varying obstructed views.  A nice size aisle was smack-dab in the middle of the room.  It was the walkway from stage to throne and also was used for dancing. The prime real estate could have been more effectively used for tables.  By having the throne stroll along the wall and polka-ing in the Table 7 area, more guests could access and enjoy this show.

The concept for WE GOTTA BINGO is clever.  Two Catholic parishes, St. Patrick’s and St. Dominic’s, have come together to raise funds for their churches.  It’s the Irish verses the Italians.  The premise has all kinds of possibilities.  The actual execution needs work.  The show lacks a tight script.  Although the actors are energetically committed to their stereotypes, their improvisation isn’t fluid.  The bits between the Bingo games feel forced and clunky.  The lack of laughter is uncomfortable.

The best moments are the actual Bingo games hosted by the dynamic Merrick Robinson (Bucky).  Robinson navigates the game-playing with spirited precision.  His hilarious sidekick Jessica Lauren Scott (Darla) delivers the best improvised moments. After Robinson disappears, the unflappable Scott responds to audience members with ongoing zingers.  She’s a hoot!  SIDENOTE: Table 7 couldn’t see the board with the lit up Bingo numbers.  In addition, Bingo markers weren’t easily available.  Our table of eight people scrambled for pens from purses.  And two people had to use their car keys to scratch the called numbers.  

The ‘interactive’ part of this theatrical experience is multi-leveled and guest-driven.  Everyone plays Bingo.  Everyone is invited to dance at various times.  And someone at each table will serve as table captain.  My gal pal Carrie was selected as our table captain.  She donned a hairnet and apron to serve us Giordano’s lasagna (meat or vegetarian), salad and bread.  Initially, we received bruchetta as an appetizer.  And towards the end, a tupperware container was dropped off with fudge and lemon bars.  The meal was tasty enough!  And $49 for dinner and a live show seems like an entertainment bargain.  

The show was created in the style of the long-running Tony  and Tina’s Wedding.  It’s an opportunity to eat, drink and be merry as dramatic buffoonery unfolds around you.    Although WE GOTTA BINGO has the potential to bring in suburban folk by the bus load, it still has a way to G-O to be a real winner.     

Running Time:  Two and half hours includes dinner

At Chicago Theater Works, 1113 W. Belmont

Directed by Ross Young

Created, produced and written by Bill Collins

Fridays at 7pm

Saturdays at 8:30pm

Sundays at 5pm

Open-ended engagement

Tickets are $49 and include a full Italian dinner and non-alcoholic beverages

Cash bar 

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