Flight Courier Service

Over the past five years the members of the Cook County Theatre Department have been puttering around in their near-south-side loft, largely ignored by mainstream press and audiences alike. Yet they’ve mounted ten peculiar, beguiling shows with a total budget of less than $10,000. From the hesitant fumblings of their debut, Swing Your Lady (a self-described deconstruction of Oklahoma!), to the thrilling sophistication of their two-person Tosca to the giddy free-for-all of their “summer stock” Wizard of Oz, Cook County have consistently charmed and baffled audiences with their poker-faced brand of antitheater. Now, with nearly all the original members departed for the coasts and an expensive space to maintain, Cook County may be calling it quits (although just a few days ago they found a “roommate” to share their loft, meaning they may be able to hang onto it a bit longer). If their new show, Flight Courier Service, is indeed their swan song, they’re going out with a bang. Their first honest-to-God play, penned by company cofounder Rich Maxwell, features comic genius Gary Wilmes–he of the collapsible skeleton–as hapless international courier Rene, sent with a mysterious package to Kuala Lumpur only to find himself the target of an inexplicable murder plot. True to their Fluxus roots, Cook County can’t just present a play; at one point, two actors stop the show to talk about how they first met. But in the end the company prove they know how to tell a conventional story with the best of them. Cook County Theatre Department, 2255 S. Michigan (enter on 23rd Street), 312-842-8234. Opens Thursday, November 13, 8 PM. Through November 22: Thursdays, 8 PM; Fridays-Saturdays, 10:30 PM. $10, or “pay what you can.”

–Justin Hayford

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Jason Greenberg.