Wednesday, April 11, 2018


Chi IL Live Shows On Our Radar:

Here at ChiIL Live Shows, we're elated that Theater Wit is extending its smash hit comedy Women Laughing Alone with Salad, Sheila Callaghan’s satirical feminist farce based on the Internet meme of the same name, through May 12 due to high box office demand. It's a favorite of ours and a fiercely funny show. Check out my full review right here, then go already

Originally slated to close April 29, audiences now have two more weeks to be shocked and convulsing with laughter at Wit’s wildly subversive tour-de-force about friendship, salad, sex, bodies, yoga, salad, men, envy, women, pharmaceuticals, diets, salad, uppers and salad.

Women Laughing Alone with Salad has been a fresh and healthy recipe for box office success at Theater Wit thanks to critical acclaim like:

“Don't read about it. Don't ask your friends about it. Just buy your tickets and go.”
- New City

“3-1/2 stars! Deeply original, stellar and fearless! Ribald and raucous, but also incredibly smart. Engstrom is breathtaking!”
- Chicago Tribune

“The ferocious, culture-eating acid of Callaghan's wit is hilariously rendered by Devon de Mayo's staging for Theater Wit.”
- Chicago Reader

“4 stars! One of the most hilarious things you’re likely to see in a theatre...more laughs in the first five minutes of this play alone than in most comedies. One of the best shows of 2018 so far. A must-see.”


 All photos by Charles Osgood 

(From left) Echaka Agba, Daniella Pereira and Jennifer Engstrom star in Women Laughing Alone with Salad, Sheila Callaghan’s satirical comedy based on the meta-feminist Internet meme of the same name. 

Expect nudity, a full on stylized orgy of a 3 way, beauty mutilation, masturbation, and plenty of colorful language, so leave the kids at home for this one!

(From left) Japhet Balaban, Echaka Agba, Daniella Pereira and Jennifer Engstrom 

I'll admit, I've never refrigerated a press release before! I have gotten some creative pitches, like a glass bottle full of sand delivered FedEx with a press invite for an iced tea company inside. Theater WIT's latest, a "Pinterest worthy" press release "salad" with lettuce, peppers and a fork, had me laughing before I left the lobby, and set the mood for this utterly unique show. 

**On a weird, semi related side note, if you have a phone app that turns phrases backwards, try speaking in "Eat The Salad". I discovered that backwards it sounds a hell of a lot like "philosophy". No kidding. 
Try it.**

With three large screens, Women Laughing Alone With Salad blasts us with a colorful media barrage that embraces the absurdity of the advertising we're bombarded with, and the joys of social media that loves to lampoon it. Philosophy indeed! The music is upbeat, recognizable, contemporary hits, and the nonverbal scenes are a scream. This show is achingly funny and revealing, literally and figuratively. The scenes are certainly exaggerated in style, and yet, they almost have to be, to counteract the crazy making diets, sexuality, and airbrushed, exuberant expectations we've held up as a feminine ideal for far too long.

"Three years, four performers, a production team of twenty eight and one thousand four hundred pieces of fake lettuce all came together at our press opening."
Jeremy Wechsler (Artistic Director, Theater Wit)

(From left) Tori (Daniella Pereira) tangles with Meredith (Echaka Agba) as Guy (Japhet Balaban) looks on

This show has some delightful gender bending drag going on, that more clearly exaggerates stereotypes and all too familiar behaviors. The second act also amusingly reveals just how clueless most adman bro dudes truly are about how to market to women or even how to date or relate to them as human beings. Of course, they've updated the stock images to represent contemporary women (snark font engaged). They are now using some androgyny along with mixed races and organic specialty greens instead of iceberg lettuce, to sell women on the laughing salad woman archetype. 

(From left) Echaka Agba, Daniella Pereira and Jennifer Engstrom

At least there's a ray of hope for change in the overeducated, multitasking mom boss. Although she's trapped in her own modern hell of unrealistic expectations as much as Sandy (Jennifer Engstrom), Guy's mom, a women's rights protester back in the day. She had a promising start fighting the patriarchy and ended fighting against a cheating spouse and unfulfilling destiny as a SAHM, and ultimately a fighting a losing battle against age and agism, one custom salad at a time. 

(From left) Jennifer Engstrom plays Sandy and Japhet Balaban is Guy

Women Laughing Alone With Salad is undoubtedly over the top, behind the couch, and below the belt funny. This intrepid cast eat raw onions and peppers, flee falling greens, and bare their bodies and souls in the name of story and truth telling. Echaka Agba, Japhet Balaban, Jennifer Engstrom and Daniella Pereira were all fabulously funny playing off one another and give lettuce entertain you a whole new connotation. As fun and funny as this show is, it'll likely leave a lasting impression, and have you kicking in that critical thinking at the sight of every salad and insidious ad, for days to come. 

(Foreground, from left) Meredith (Echaka Agba) and Guy (Japhet Balaban) flirt while Tori (Daniella Pereira) lies low behind 

(From left) Echaka Agba plays Meredith and Japhet Balaban is Guy 

Women Laughing Alone With Salad explores just what happens when a society orchestrates an organized assault on half the population for generations, to coerce them into buying more and more potentially painful and dangerous products to fix their flaws, all while starving themselves into sometimes fatally unrealistic and unsustainable sizes. 

We greatly enjoyed this raunchy, revealing, relevant exploration of what women do to ourselves and to others in the name of food, family, fashion, sexuality, and sizeism. This show is what happens when women stop laughing alone with salad and start laughing with friends at sexism. Highly recommended. 

 (From left) Japhet Balaban plays Guy and Echaka Agba is Meredith  

Don’t miss this subversive tour-de-force about friendship, salad, sex, bodies, yoga, salad, men, envy, women, pharmaceuticals, diets, salad, uppers and salad. Theater Wit’s Chicago premiere of Women Laughing Alone with Salad runs through April 29, 2018 at Theater Wit, 1229 N. Belmont Ave., Chicago. For mature audiences. Tickets: or call 773.975.8150. 

And in other great news, not only does this show promise to serve up big laughs, it comes with an immediate side of economic justice!

Single tickets to Women Laughing Alone with Salad are $12-$70.

However, tickets for women to all regular performances will be discounted to match the 79% wage gap between men and women in Illinois.

To illustrate, at the $24 ticket level, male-identifying patrons pay full price, while female-identifying patrons pay only $18.95, corrected for the 79% wage gap.

Theater Wit is tossing up a crisp Chicago premiere of Women Laughing Alone with Salad, Sheila Callaghan’s satirical comedy based on the meta-feminist Internet meme of the same name.

Don’t miss this four-person, satirical, subversive tour-de-force about friendship, salad, sex, bodies, yoga, salad, men, envy, women, pharmaceuticals, diets, salad, uppers and salad. 

Previews of Women Laughing Alone with Salad are March 9-18: Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m.

Performances run through April 29: Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at
3 p.m.

Theater Wit is located at 1229 N. Belmont in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. Another great way to secure seats is to sign up for a Theater Wit Membership, an “all the theater you can eat” deal that lets you see as many plays as you want in any of Wit’s three spaces for a low monthly fee of $29/$22 for students, along with many member perks.

To purchase single tickets, a Membership, or to inquire about Flex Passes, visit or call 773.975.8150.

More about Women Laughing Alone with Salad

You’ve seen them a hundred times before. Stock photos of attractive women, sitting alone, enjoying a salad so hilarious they can’t help but explode with laughter and delight.

The proliferation of this absurd cliché caught the attention of the Internet in 2011 after Edith Zimmerman posted the first collection on the feminist blog The Hairpin. Titled “Women Laughing Alone With Salad,” it featured 18 photos illustrating this trend with no accompanying text.

Zimmerman’s post spurred a number of hilarious memes parodying this stereotypical portrayal of women in media, including a tumblr page.

And this play, a fierce, funny, feminist look at the maniacal gauntlet of gender relations and the relentless pursuit of insane ideals. Our heroines are trapped on a treadmill of dysfunctional relationships, warped body image and ludicrous pornography, carving their way through a suffocating, tangled mess. With pointed jabs and razor wit, Women Laughing Alone with Salad disembowels the cosmetic myth of pre-packaged feminine empowerment.

When it debuted at Washington D.C.’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre in 2015, playwright Sheila Callaghan, also a writer/producer on the hit Showtime comedy Shameless, told the Washington Post, “Nobody likes salad that much. And the notion that you’re supposed to feel that way – salad will never be that kind of satisfying. No matter how creative you get with salad, it’s still (expletive) lettuce and vegetables, right?”

DC Theatre Scene subsequently hailed Women Laughing Alone with Salad a “fresh, funny play…the poster child for what feminist theatre should be: a great night out on the town watching a slam bam comedy which is also a serious conversation about the society we oh-so-currently live in.”

Salad Days @ Theater Wit:
Behind the scenes of Women Laughing Alone with Salad

Here in Chicago, Devon de Mayo (pictured above) makes her Theater Wit directorial debut with Women Laughing Alone with Salad, fresh from staging the world premiere of The Burn by Philip Dawkins for Steppenwolf Theatre for Young Audiences. Other recent projects include Harvey at Court Theatre, You On the Moors Now by Jaclyn Backhaus for The Hypocrites, the world premiere of Sycamore at Raven Theatre and Don't Look Back/Must Look Back at Pivot Arts.

Wit’s Women Laughing Alone with Salad stars Echaka Agba, Japhet Balaban, Jennifer Engstrom and Daniella Pereira.

Echaka Agba (Meredith/Bruce) was named to the Chicago Tribune’s “Hot New Faces of Chicago Theater, Class of 2017”), and singled out in the 2017 Time Out Chicago Theater Awards for featured performance and breakout performance in Broken Nose Theatre’s At the Table, which also won her the Jeff Award for Best Supporting Actress. Other credits are Short Shakes! Romeo and Juliet at Chicago Shakespeare, United Flight 232, Jeff Award winner for Best Ensemble at House Theatre, and The Crucible and Between Riverside and Crazy at Steppenwolf.

Japhet Balaban (Guy/Alice) was also named to the Chicago Tribune’s “Hot New Faces of Chicago Theater, Class of 2017”), drawing particular attention for his work in Ideation (Jackalope Theatre). Other credits are You on the Moors Now (The Hypocrites), Posh (Steep Theatre), Never The Sinner (Victory Gardens), Balm in Gilead (Griffin Theatre) and Look Back in Anger (Redtwist).

Jennifer Engstrom (Sandy/Guy) is a veteran of regional and Chicago stages and an A Red Orchid Theatre ensemble member, where she performed in The Fastest Clock in The Universe, Eric LaRue, Fatboy, The Hothouse, 3C and The Mutilated (Jeff nomination for Outstanding Actress).

Daniella Pereira (Tori/Joe) was most recently seen in Letters Home (Griffin Theatre), The Taming of the Shrew (Oak Park Festival Theatre) and Cymbeline (Strawdog Theatre Company).

Sheila Callaghan's plays have been produced and developed with Soho Rep, Playwright's Horizons, Yale Rep, South Coast Rep, Clubbed Thumb, The LARK, Actor's Theatre of Louisville, New Georges, The Flea, Woolly Mammoth, Boston Court and Rattlestick Playwright's Theatre. She received the Princess Grace Award for emerging artists, a Jerome Fellowship from Playwright's Center in Minneapolis, a MacDowell Residency, a Cherry Lane Mentorship Fellowship, the Susan Smith Blackburn Award and the Whiting Award. Her plays have been produced internationally in New Zealand, Australia, Norway, Germany, Portugal and the Czech Republic. These include Scab, Crawl Fade to White, Crumble, We Are Not These Hands, Dead City, Lascivious Something, Kate Crackernuts, That Pretty Pretty; Or, The Rape Play, Fever/Dream, Everything You Touch, Roadkill Confidential, Elevada and Bed. She is published with and Samuel French, and several of her collections are published with Counterpoint Press. She has taught playwriting at Columbia University, The University of Rochester, The College of New Jersey, Florida State University and Spalding University. She is an affiliated artist with Clubbed Thumb, a member of the Obie winning playwright's organization 13P and an alumni of New Dramatists. In 2010, Callaghan was profiled by Marie Claire as one of "18 Successful Women Who Are Changing the World." She was also named one of Variety’s "10 Screenwriters to Watch" of 2010. Callaghan is a writer/producer on the hit Showtime comedy Shameless and a founder of the feminist activist group The Kilroys. She was nominated for a 2016 Golden Globe for her work on Hulu’s Casual and a 2017 WGA Award for her Shameless episode “I Am A Storm.”

Designers for Women Laughing Alone with Salad are Arnel Sancianco (set), Mieka van der Ploeg (costumes), Heather Gilbert (lights), Shain Longbehn (sound), Joe Burke (projections) Jesse Gaffney (props), Rachel Flesher (intimacy) and Clare Cooney (casting).

About Theater Wit
Theater Wit, Chicago’s “smart art” theater, is a major hub of the Chicago neighborhood theater scene, where audiences enjoy a smorgasbord of excellent productions in three, 99-seat spaces, see a parade of talented artists and mingle with audiences from all over Chicago.

“A thrilling addition to Chicago’s roster of theaters” (Chicago Tribune) and “a terrific place to see a show” (New City), Theater Wit is now in its eighth season at its home at
1229 N. Belmont Ave., in the heart of the new Belmont Theatre District in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. In 2014, Theater Wit was awarded the National Theatre Award by the American Theatre Wing for strengthening the quality, diversity and dynamism of American theater.

The company’s most recent hits include The Antelope Party by Eric John Meyer, This Way Outta Santaland by Mitchell Fain, 10 Out of 12 and Mr. Burns, a post-electric play by Anne Washburn, Naperville by Mat Smart, The New Sincerity by Alena Smith, Bad Jews by Joshua Harmon, The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence and Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England by Madeleine George, and Completeness and The Four of Us by Itamar Moses.

Visit or call the Theater Wit box office, 773.975.8150, to purchase a Membership, inquire about Flex Pass options or to buy single tickets.

To receive an “artisanal selection of consonants and vowels from Theater Wit,” sign up at for exclusive updates, flash deals and behind-the-scenes production scoop every few weeks.

In an odd screaming symmetry, Theater Wit is currently running not one but two shows whose posters feature an open, yelling mouth. Though very different, both shows are quite good and well worth a look! 

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