Off-Loop hit 'The Big Meal' goes to eight shows a week

March 9, 2011

What do you do at a subscription theater when you have a hit? Why, you extend it, of course, for a week or two or even three if possible until the next production just can't be put off any longer. Naturally, that's precisely what American Theater Company (ATC) has done with "The Big Meal," the Chicago premiere of the award-winning Off-Broadway play by Dan LeFranc that uses eight people to tell the story of five generations of a family, all in 75 minutes. It's been extended twice but must close March 27.

However, ATC has done more than merely extend the show, which they say is the biggest box office hit in the troupe's history. ATC has taken several unusual steps to maximize its income. First, ATC has doubled the number of performances each week from four to eight, which may be unprecedented in Off-Loop Theater history. The standard Off-Loop performance week is between three and six shows. Eight-a-week is what Broadway touring shows do Downtown, so ATC's Tuesday-Sunday schedule is unique among the circuit of smaller Off-Loop theaters. Next, for the final week of the run, March 22-27, ATC has suspended the standard student/senior discount and jacked up the ticket price to $45 for all seats and all performances.

Hey, it's the ol' law of supply and be damned. Tickets between now and March 20 are at the usual prices and with discounts in place, but "The Big Meal" already is sold out for every show this week and next week except Tuesday night (March 15). If you want to see this hit, you're going to have to pay top dollar during the final week of its run.