Y'see, the problem is there just aren't enough theater critics. Sure, Chicago has several dozen credible men and women who write, blog or broadcast about theater on a daily or weekly basis, but it simply doesn't work when you have 14 shows opening in three days, as was the case last Friday-Sunday. In fact, 40 shows will open in local theaters between Nov. 12 and Nov. 30, or better than two-a-day. And our little Off-Loop theater troupes wonder why they can't get reviewers to come see them. Hey, even a critic has to see the new Harry Potter or spend the night sharpening knives. Some critics even have kids.
We understand that every theater company wants to open a show before Thanksgiving so it can run four weeks or six weeks and still close before Christmas, but the result is a total scheduling mess. Social networking now provides a mechanism for promoting shows to potential ticket buyers without benefit of press or the risk of negative write-ups. Still, there's nothing as immediately effective in creating a hit as newspaper, broadcast and/or blog coverage by the pros. But, pilgrim, they jest ain't enough pros--or media outlets--to go around, especially not 40 times in 18 days.
Our advice to Off-Loop theater companies: next year, skip November.