On any given night in Chicago, an individual can find something interesting to do without much effort. There are several open mics, improv shows, and theatre productions to keep your interest. Of course, there are good things to see, but not often something that is unique based solely on concept. “Having It All” is something that breaks the mold. Perhaps born out of the tradition of “The Moth”, this show offers a night of storytelling mixed with improv. The catch is that all of the storytellers and improv actors are women.
The stories told were sometimes funny, sometimes offbeat, but always heartfelt. One memorable story centered around a woman’s desire to reflect on the life of her grandmother. She gleaned all of her points from a notebook that was open for the entirety of her story. It was a bit confusing until she got to the conclusion. But, everything worked well and tied up nicely when she lamented that her grandmother, “Never did have it all, but she always did have enough to fill up a page.”
Another storyteller came on stage and wasted no time enticing the audience. She claimed to have been followed home from New Orleans by a ghost. Alas, she did not elaborate. It seemingly wouldn’t have had anything to do with the theme to divulge on this topic but I cannot lie and say that I wasn’t a tad disappointed at the time. I did not sulk long however because the other story about her time in New Orleans was no less enthralling. Her story centered around her visit to a palm reader with her girlfriend in Jackson Square. She explained that at first she was put off by the palm reader because she would not stop talking about her mother. This was supposed to be about her after all. Upon returning home, and lamenting about her rough time with the palm reader, her mother casually dropped in a bombshell. “Jackson Square is where your father and I had our first date.” She could have easily dropped the mic then and there but she decided to leave em laughing. She revealed that the last thing the fortune teller said was that her and her girlfriend could always adopt. “Yes” she replied. “We could always get a dog.”
One storyteller seemed to have a story that was very apropos considering we are in an election year. Her story concerned the fact that her mother is a fervent fangirl of Barack Obama. To drive this point home, she divulged what happened one break from college. Upon entering her room, she didn’t find anything missing, just a lot added. The walls were filled with posters of the man in the Oval Office. This shrine was almost too much to take but she felt as if she couldn’t get too cross with her mother. After all, she had always been there for her. She had always shown her the importance of hard work. Even when diagnosed with breast cancer, she never stopped being a great mom. This storyteller left us all by saying she can’t believe our “42nd President is almost done with his time in office.” Without missing a beat, she quickly corrected herself. “I mean 44th. My mom would kill me if she heard me say that.”
A casually dressed woman strode confidently on stage after the previous performer and took us back to the days when she had to be formal or suffer her parents wrath. It was a time when she was under the tutelage of Ms. Talbot. A woman in her sixties whom this storyteller could have sworn was in her forties because of the way she carried herself. Ms. Talbot would teach her and three other young girls how to act like a lady in her father’s office building after work hours. There was no time for play because they were even given packets for study when on their own. The storyteller recounted how Ms. Talbot would gush about her infatuation with men of the sky. “Have you ever seen a man in a flight suit?” she asked during one memorable session. The storyteller wrapped everything up by claiming that she likes to be “gross” but still thinks fondly about Ms. Talbot. She finished by saying that she hopes Ms. Talbot is still out there coaching young girls while also dating men more than half her age. Assuming they are in possession of a flight suit, of course.
Other stories ran the gamut from seriously emotional (a mother expressing how she wants her daughter to not think she has to be placed into a box and realize she can be many different things in her life at many different times) to seriously off-beat (a woman reminiscing on the time her mother caught her fully shaven) to something straight out of Mean Girls Jr. (a woman recounting how an old friend would constantly make her feel bad about herself and then feeling betrayed when ditching her for a positive group of friends in middle school).
The night was capped off by about half an hour of improv based off the stories told. The performances here were solid but would have had more impact if they were performed after each story perhaps. Having breaks for improv in between each story would have made the jokes more clean cut because the memory of them wouldn’t have faded by the time they were delivered. That said, I was impressed with the improv actors who were able to rehash elements of every story for a sort of instant catharsis.
One can only hope that Having it All will have more time to shine and perfect it’s repertoire. Improv Olympics already prides itself on having a cadre of improv troupes that display a lot of diversity so it would only seem fitting that a night of stories and improv by an eclectic group of female performers would be allowed to continue. From hearing the stories it seems apparent that having it all may not be as simple as movies and magazines will have you believe, but that won’t keep these women from trying, so hopefully they’ll get more chances to.
The IO is located at 1501 N. Kingsbury, with many stages in its wonderful facility. This show, one of the one-nighters was a mere $5.00 ticket. This is a rare treat. Admission at less than a parking meter investment. The IO can be reached at 312-929-2401 and of course, online at www.ioimprov.com. No matter the night of the week- comic action is happening at IO