Strawdog Theater used to put on weird but unique noir-inspired thrillers in a Lakeview cabaret loft with a bar in it, but the landlords kicked them out in 2015 and tore down the building to make room for condos. The company has its new home in a squat North Center den on a sleepy and out-of-the-way street, though there are occasional disruptive volleys from the Metra and Brown Line on either side.
So far as I can tell, Strawdog’s never done a mainstage children’s play, and probably never would’ve gotten away with one at its old space. But you know what? As insipid holiday fare for kids goes, this show isn’t bad. Anderson Lawfer was a hit with the ten and under crowd over the weekend as Hershel, the last defense of the shtetl of Ostropol against a pesky infestation of little imps out to spoil Hanukkah. The production value felt better than it had to be, with special effects for the Goblin King’s entrance and layered vocals that put the kind of fear through the kids in the audience that made them freeze instead of scream. (Aaron Lorenz designed the lights, Jeffrey Levin did sound design.)
I do worry though. Not to be a Hanukkah goblin about it or anything, but I hope the trauma of getting evicted doesn’t turn this unique small company into a run-of-the-mill family theater. Chicago needs that like it needs more condos in Lakeview. v