More Woe at the Royal George

Once again an air of uncertainty hangs over the Royal George Theatre Center. First Chicago Bank of Ravenswood has initiated foreclosure proceedings on the complex, which includes two theaters, a cabaret space, a restaurant, and various office and banquet facilities, all at 1641 N. Halsted. The bank’s foreclosure efforts have been held up, however, because of a bankruptcy filing recently made by Royal Faubion, owner of the complex. The phones were not being answered at Faubion’s office last week or early this week.

The Royal George’s problems were exacerbated with the Christmas-week closing of the restaurant adjacent to the main stage, which had been operated for the past year by restaurateur Bill Contos, who also owns Chez Paul. The team of Louise Gilliam, Sue Gin, and Arnie Pinkus now are negotiating for a lease to reopen the restaurant around March 1. “Nothing is signed, but we want to offer good food at reasonable prices, and we want to make it a hangout for the theater community,” says Gilliam, who also runs concession stands at several off-Loop theaters. When the Royal George complex was shut down for a time in 1989, Faubion maintained that the restaurant, which he had been running, was a major drain on the operation.

Should the foreclosure proceed, First Chicago Bank of Ravenswood would either take control of the theater complex or sell it to another party. An auction of the property was scheduled for last Tuesday, but according to Herb Ray, an executive vice president at the bank, it was deferred because of Faubion’s bankruptcy filing. Adds Ray: “We intend to ask the court to lift the automatic stay on the sale of the building that the bankruptcy filing creates.” Ray said that in the event no buyer emerges, the bank, which has first mortgage on the property, would most likely take control of it. One theater-business source estimates the value of the property in the neighborhood of $5.8 million.

Robert Perkins, head of Perkins Productions, has a long-term lease on the 450-seat main stage, the small upstairs theater, and the Ruggles cabaret. Perkins is the coproducer of Other People’s Money, which has occupied the main stage since last March and is now scheduled to close on January 27. He insists that whoever winds up in control of the building, it will not affect his operation. “We have an ironclad lease that guarantees us control of the theaters.”

Last week Perkins was busy negotiating with Wes Payne and Michael Leavitt to open their production of the Broadway hit Lend Me a Tenor on the Royal George main stage in March. The Royal George appears to be the space that Payne and Leavitt prefer for this show, a farce about a provincial opera company in Cleveland. Payne says Perkins has supplied him with documents that seem to ensure that the theaters can remain in operation no matter what happens to ownership of the property. “Our attorneys are looking at the documents,” he says.

Marvin’s Room Going to NY?

Negotiations for a New York production of Chicago playwright Scott McPherson’s critically acclaimed Marvin’s Room are in high gear, but no deal has been cut according to James Bagley, McPherson’s attorney. Bagley says a number of not-for-profit companies and commercial producers in the Big Apple have expressed interest in the play, which premiered last spring in the Goodman Theatre Studio and was remounted last fall at the Hartford Stage in Connecticut. One of the issues under discussion, according to the attorney, is whether the New York production would be a remounting of the Goodman/Hartford show or a new version done specifically for New York. Bagley says the Goodman holds the New York option on Marvin’s Room for approximately another 45 days, and the theater company would like to cut a deal within that time frame. Whether that jibes with what Bagley considers the best arrangement for his client remains to be seen. “We’re working with Goodman to ensure the best possible situation for the play,” Bagley says.

Out of Service

Room Service, the restaurant delivery service that was catering to a new wave of yuppie couch potatoes, abruptly shut down late last week. CEO Brian Keil said he hopes to be back in business within “a couple of weeks,” but he indicated the resumption of operations might hinge on successful negotiations with out-of-town partners to invest new funds in the company. “We were moving toward profitability,” said Keil, but the company was experiencing costly mechanical problems with its fleet of 15 delivery trucks, and it had begun to feel the pinch of the nationwide recession, which is cutting into restaurant spending. If and when Room Service reopens, Keil said, the company will try to sell off its truck fleet and switch to specialty outfitted delivery cars. Meanwhile Chef’s Express, a competing service operated by the Levy Restaurants chain, said it will be adding vehicles to its fleet and expanding its delivery area north to Irving Park effective immediately. Previously the boundaries were Belmont, Roosevelt, Racine, and the lake.

Ardis Criticism

Chicago’s huge Ardis Krainik fan club has lost at least one of its members. In his 1990 year-end wrap-up on December 30, the Sun-Times’s irascible Robert C. Marsh expressed his growing concern about the quality of work being done at Lyric Opera of Chicago, where Krainik reigns as general director. “Why when the company is selling all those tickets and raking in big contributions does the music have to be so ordinary…?” wondered Marsh, who also suggested that Krainik’s greatest achievements have been as a “money manager.” There was a different slant at the put-on-a-happy-face Tribune, where John von Rhein’s year-end survey glossed over any substantive analysis of Lyric and its management, saying only that the company “fared less successfully with its forays into the standard repertoire than with musical esoterica.” Tribune entertainment editor Richard Christiansen placed Krainik on an honor roll of artists who, as the headline put it, “brightened the year.”

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Charles Eshelman.