REVIEWSTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

Flanagan’s Wake

An improv/comedy

Produced by Bill Collins

At Chicago Theater Works

Dated re-mount fizzles

I have never seen Flanagan’s Wake  when it ran for years in the Chicago area. This is an interactive improv show about an Irish funeral. It is produced by the teams that brought you Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding but minus the food.

Flanagan is dead, but don’t be sad because remembering his life is all about laughs!  Unfortunately, in this show the laughs are few. The problems with this improv are many. From the extremely bad acoustics in the hall that makes much of the dialogue difficult to hear or understand (a real problem when punch-lines are spoken) to the combination of the actors speaking much too fast with their thick authentic Irish brogues – rendering much of the words spoken as inaudible. It is hard to laugh when you can either hear or understand what is being said.

Let me explain what the show is about. (From the press notes):

“Come celebrate the life of our dear friend, Flanagan, by hoisting a pint and joining in on the tales that unfold. Join the villagers of the beautiful Grapplin, County Sligo, Ireland, as they tell tales, sing songs and toast the memory of one of their own.

 Pay your respects to glowering Mother Flanagan and to the poor grieving fiancée, Fiona Finn. Listen to a eulogy written by County Sligo’s best-known writer, Mickey Finn, and tip a pint with Brian Ballybunion, himself a weaver of tales. Share memories of your own experiences and misadventures with dear, old Flanagan, or simply enjoy the stories and songs of the locals as they recall Flan’s life. Cross yourself with the blessings from St. Gregory’s parish priest, Father Damon Fitzgerald, or cross your fingers that local pagan Kathleen Mooney doesn’t cast a spell on you. Mayor Martin O’Doul will preside over the proceedings with an iron hand (and a parched throat) as he leads in grieving as only the Irish can.”

Filled with actors who stretch credulity and are difficult to understand, the show fizzles with sub-par performances that render the audience participation and their filling in the improv blanks as mostly unfunny. There is an art to getting the audience involved and this crew did little to move toward laughs.

I would add that the premise – mocking the Irish and their traditions- is a dated concept. This show would get in serious trouble in an Irish bar. As an Irish-American, I was offended by this show. I imagined if it was about an African-American funeral or an Latino funeral, there would be demonstrations on Belmont Avenue!

So let me conclude, Flanagan’s Wake is a dated, unfunny, poorly acted show in a venue with serious sound issues. The improv is shaky at best. Also, since they make money on drinks, it was amazing that no waiter ever asked me for a drink or even came to my table with a glass of water. How rude!

So if you want an evening of fun and laughter and you enjoy improv – get to Second City – they do it right (and they will bring you a glass of water.)

Not Recommended.

Tom Williams

Date Reviewed: Match 3. 2017.

For more info checkout the Flanagan’s Wake page at

At Chicago Theater Works, 1113 W. Belmont, Chicago, IL, call 312-391-0404,, tickets $29 – $34 ( no meal), drinks available, Wednesdays thru Sundays, times vary, running time is 1 hour 50 minutes with intermission, on a open run.