As luck would have it, opening night for “Graeme of Thrones” happened to be the same time the Chicago Cubs were in Cleveland battling the Indians in the seventh and deciding game of the World Series.
I thought about not going.
Another reason: No matter what’s happening, from where I live in the northwest suburbs, it can take two hours or more just to get downtown – in this case, to Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place.
Besides, I was raised a White Sox fan.
But then I figured it might be fun to be in the heart of Chicago if the Cubs did win that night – or lose. Plus, the 2-hour run-time of the play would have the production over before the baseball game.
Anyway, one of the spots in the food court at Water Tower Place had the game on so we caught the early score. In the lobby of the theatre, Cubs fans were keeping up with the action by way of their smartphones as they waited for the performance to begin.
So that was the multi-tasking mood of me and a good many other of the theatergoers that evening – baseball on our minds mixed with watching a comic take on HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” the award-winning epic soap opera set in an imaginary medieval world, which, in turn is based on a series of books by George R.R. Martin, “A Song of Fire and Ice.”
Past the game, onto Graeme
I watch the show – and have done so in a hot tub, while drinking red wine. And if you’ve seen it, you’d know that seems a pretty perfect place to view all the political intrigue, deviousness, gore, blood, nudity, quality cable TV sex, depravity, perversions, amputations, beheadings, infanticide, nastiness, brooding, castration, immolation and dragons as various forces battle it out for the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms.
And a good much of it is filmed in Northern Ireland, in case you’re planning a vacation. It helped with mine.
“Graeme of Thrones” premise is that nebbish fan, Graeme, has the bright idea to turn “Game of Thrones” into a 19-hour stage piece. My guess is somebody already really is thinking about doing this – but probably as a musical.
There already is “Thrones! The Musical Parody” which is playing at the Apollo in Chicago – but I’m thinking more along the lines of a self-important “Les Mis” style production, or maybe something with rap to attract a younger audience.
Graeme (Ali Brice), though, doesn’t have Disney money or HBO bucks. What he does have is his dream and two daffy friends to help him mount a truncated version of his vision for those of us gathered, who are playing the roles of possible backers.
In turn, the trio is taking on an epic that has a cast of hundreds and enough main characters to field a football team – or maybe even a game. Or a league.
“Graeme” has the wacky energy of a “Carol Burnett Show” skit with Carol, Tim Conway and Harvey Korman or maybe a Second City send-up of pop culture.
Libby Northedge plays loony Bryony, who chews scenery more than Al Pacino did in “Scent of a Woman.”
There’s nothing Bryony won’t do to have stage time, including creating a rift between Graeme and his buddy and stagehand Paul (Northern Ireland’s Michael Condron), so she can play more parts.
Her over-the-top bits include stuffing her cheeks with ham to reenact a famous “Game of Thrones” scene from the point of view of a wild boar; shooting heart shapes out of a reversed vacuum cleaner to symbolize one of the main “Thrones” character’s “becoming a woman”; and picking out a patron from the audience to take on in a sword fight.
Northedge is fearless being crazy and pretty much owns the show as Bryony – much as some female characters control the action in “Game of Thrones.”
“Graeme” is at its best when it’s taking the piss out of the self-seriousness of “Game.” It has a few good laughs about the show’s use of nudity – be it male or female – and odd sexual proclivities.
I think it pretty much has it right at the end when it speculates on the fate of the TV drama’s main characters. And it even has puppets.
If this is beginning to sound “inside baseball,” well the cast was smart enough to incorporate a line or two about the Cubs game into the performance.
You don’t necessarily have to know the source material behind the “Graeme” bits, but it certainly helps. I brought along buddy Traci Clarke who is a casual viewer of the TV show, and while she did like the play’s ramshackle, improv feel, she said she was lost at some points.
Past Graeme, the end of the game
Past the performance, we headed out onto North Michigan Avenue, which felt oddly empty. Back in the car, we considered heading to a North Side bar where Traci’s son, Conor, was watching the World Series finale with friends.
The place was within two miles of Wrigley Field, so I knew barricades set up and a lack of parking would make that impossible. Heck, on the way back to the suburbs we noticed that police weren’t allowing people on or off at Irving Park Road.
At that point, the score was 6 – 3 in favor of the Cubs in the 7th. While we were driving down the Kennedy that changed in a way all-too-familiar to Cubs fans – which is to say, all of a sudden the game was tied. With the Indians’ runs coming with two outs in the bottom of the 8th, mind you.
Even a nail-biting baseball game moves a bit slowly, so we were able make it all the way from the Loop to East Dundee at Rosie O’Hare’s in time for the scoreless 9th inning, the rain delay, the Cubs rally, the Indians coming close, the final out, the hugs, the toasts, two beers there, two beers at another bar.
Hey, it was sort of like a “Game of Thrones”: no dragons, mind you, but a lot of big, furry men with intimidating beards; no nudity unless you recalled the ESPN magazine issue with Jake Arrieta, pitching in the buff.
Either way, like GOTR reminds, winter’s coming.
“Graeme of Thrones” is playing at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place in downtown Chicago through Nov. 13. For more information, see www.broadwayinchicago.com/show/graeme-of-thrones/ .