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A Night At Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre

August 25, 2014 7:00 AM

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(credit: lookingglasstheatre.org)

(credit: lookingglasstheatre.org)

A night out for dinner and a show in Chicago is a matter of choosing among musical, drama, comedy, classic, experimental or new work options because the city and suburbs have a vibrant theater scene of more than 200 companies. Indeed, with so many options it may be easy to overlook one because of its location. The following guide notes an outstanding theater company that could be overlooked because its neighborhood is known for shopping. To complete the night out, the guide pairs the venue with places to go before and after the show.

Lookingglass Theatre Company
Chicago Pumping Station Water Works
821 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 337-0665
www.lookingglasswtheatre.org

Seeing a Lookingglass Theatre production is not a typical show experience. It is deliberately akin to slipping down author Lewis Carroll’s rabbit hole or peering through a mirror to enter another world the way his Alice did. Every time you go, it will feel new or different because the stage is flexible, sets are unusual and its excellent actors are also trained in dance, circus arts and gymnastics. An ensemble company started by Northwestern University graduates in 1988, Lookingglass members like to originate new works and adapt shows from such challenging stories as the “Moby Dick” tale that will appear late in the 2014-2015 season. Other season shows include the inevitable certainty of death and taxes in “Death Tax,” opening Sept. 2, 2014, followed by “Lookingglass Alice,” Nov. 12, 2014. It continues with one man’s personal journey in “Travel and Deed,” March 19, 2015. “Moby Dick” ends the season June 10, 2015.

Magnificent Mile Association
625 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 409-5560
www.themagnificentmile.com

and

Water Works Visitor Center
163 E. Pearson St.
Chicago, IL 60611
www.choosechicago.com

Lookingglass Theatre’s neighborhood is North Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent Mile, a shopping mecca that stretches from Wacker Drive and the Chicago River on the south to Oak Street and the Drake Hotel at the north end. If you have shopped it or driven the “Mag Mile,” as it is popularly called, you have passed the landmark Chicago Water Tower on the west side of Michigan Avenue and its sister landmark, the Chicago Pumping Station Water Works, on the east. Lookingglass Theatre Company and a visitor center with helpful maps is in the Pumping Station Water Works. From there, casual and fine dining restaurants dot the neighborhood up and down Michigan Avenue and its side streets. Look for dining options on the Magnificent Mile Association’s site and consider the choices listed here.

Cafe Des Architectes
20 E. Chestnut St.
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 324-4063
www.cafedesarchitectes.com

For a special night-out experience, do your pre-show dinner at Sofitel Hotel’s upscale Cafe des Architectes. Recommended by the 2013 Michelin Guide, the restaurant is known for Chef Greg Biggers’ beautiful and delicious seafood, fowl and game presentations. Or keep it light with oysters and caviar and a bibb lettuce salad before the show at Sofitel’s Le Bar, then return there for a yummy post-theater dessert of apple donuts or burnt caramel ice cream. In addition, the hotel is a stunning glass prism designed by French architect Jean-Paul Viguier. Located immediately west of Michigan Avenue, north of the Pumping Station Water Works, the restaurant and bar are about a five-minute walk from Lookingglass Theatre.

Related:  Best French Restaurants In Chicago

Water Tower Place
835 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 440-3166
www.shopwatertower.com

Water Tower Place’s shops and restaurants are directly across Pearson Street from Lookingglass Theatre. A bonus to eating here is that the shopping center’s parking, accessed from Chestnut Street, means tickets validated at its restaurants are discounted. Parking downtown Chicago is expensive but a Water Tower Place restaurant validated ticket offers three hours for $16 or if parked after 5 p.m. it is five hours for $12 if validated by a store purchase of $10. Sports enthusiasts go up to Harry Caray’s Seventh Inning Stretch restaurant and bar on Floor 7 to see photos and memorabilia from Caray’s private collection, chug locally crafted beers and chow down on burgers, pizza and other pub food. For a good selection of comfort food such as well-braised pot roast, go to Mity Nice, a restaurant tucked behind Foodlife, a food court on the Mezzanine.

The Signature Lounge
John Hancock Center
875 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 787-9596
www.signatureroom.com

Among the best places to sip cocktails against a vast backdrop of city views, lights and Lake Michigan, the Signature Lounge in the John Hancock Center is a great place to relax and discuss the show. Less expensive than the Signature Room at the Ninety-Fifth, the sister restaurant one level down, the Signature Lounge is a popular date and late-night spot. If time is tight after the show, the place is also a good pre-theater choice because its menu ranges from appetizers and sandwiches to desserts. The John Hancock Center is two blocks north of Lookingglass Theatre across from Water Tower Place.

Related: Best Happy Hours Every Weeknight In Chicago

Jodie Jacobs is a veteran journalist who loves writing about Chicago, art, theater, museums and travel. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.

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