20 sep 2017 | Stage and Cinema

Theatre Review: The Toad Knew, James Thiérrée’s La Compagnie du Hanneton at Chicago Shakespeare

By Lawrence Bommer

Tuesday night’s “consecration of the house,” attended by Chicago’s Mayor Emmanuel, was a celebration that this care-ridden city badly needed. The big news is the grand opening of The Yard, Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s state-of-the-arts third theater on Navy Pier. (Its magnificent make-believe replaces the underused, open-air Skyline Stage where Cirque Shanghai presented shows every summer.) An artistic leap forward, the supple indoor edifice is both economically and environmentally sustainable. Connected by a two-level glass lobby to C.S.T.’s two-stage headquarters, the $35-million-dollar facility can seat 150-850 patrons, depending on the configuration.

And thereby hangs a tale: That flexibility is the new venue’s calling card. The size of double-decker buses, its nine audience seating towers operate on compressed air-skid technology, creating a blank slate and no fixed footprint for any show. More than just a malleable black box, The Yard can efficiently rearrange its contents into three-quarter thrust, proscenium, runway, and arena arrangements, shape-shifting that can serve any show and inspire them as well.