Ansel Burch reviews Where Are You, Carmen Sanbliego? CIC’s homage to the greatest fictional thief of the 1980s

[Image from Chemically Imbalanced Comedy (c) 2014] [Image from Chemically Imbalanced Comedy (c) 2014]

Let us take a mental journey back to the 1980s and 90s. Conjure up, if you will, the Brøderbund logo of three connected crowns. Then, imagine pixelated vistas of the pyramids of Egypt or the palace of Taj Mahal. Chances are pretty good that, if you are reading this article, Carmen Sandiego has had at least passing influence on your life, and images from her classic game show are burned into your subconscious. Chemically Imbalanced Comedy on Irving Park Road created a play that pays homage to the woman who taught us that Moscow has a population of nine million and is the largest city in the Soviet Union.

If you’ve never been to a show at Chemically Imbalanced Comedy then Where Are You, Carmen Sanbliego? is a chance to do so. From the outside CIC looks like your average storefront theater. A quick step inside reveals the hard work that has gone into their front house. The bar (which opened recently) looks like an independent establishment. There are comfy chairs in a nice sitting area and a couple high tables for those who prefer to stand. Their cocktail menu is pretty good, and their prices are fairly standard for Chicago.

(Image credit: CIC)
(Image credit: CIC)

Once the house opens, the audience is greeted by The Remember Knots and the “Pop-Up Pit Band” playing covers of 90s hits. This transitions into a sing-along with vocalist and co-writer of the show, Sarah Becker.

The time travel begun with the musical selection is completed as the lights drop and the show begins. Projected over the stage in DOS-style graphics and font “Sitges, Spain”. Carmen Sanbliego (co-writer Leslie Nesbit) sits on the beach getting bored. She has retired from her career as an international landmark thief. Suddenly, she gets a call: there is an agent on her trail again.

Cut to Chicago: at the ACBE detective agency it is Jack Plimper’s first day on the job and even if he is just a gumshoe, he’s set his sights on the greatest challenge the agency has ever faced–Carmen Sanbliego. The Chief likes his spunk and gives him permission to track Carmen down. There’s only one problem: Jack’s wedding is in six days. Can he track down the most notorious threat his agency has ever faced in less than a week? As Jack travels the world his fiancé follows, she’s worried about him and wants to make sure he’s home in time for the wedding.

The music for the show is original and fun. Some highlights include Carmen’s origin story set to the tune of “Habanera”, and another one of my favorite songs was set to a chase montage involving the entire cast and some really awesome choreography. The cast sings with heart and no small amount of skill, but most importantly they sing with dedication to character. All told, that dedication to character is what stands out most about the production. The actors allow themselves to be caricatures, without betraying their character’s inner needs.

I think when the lights come back up and the show is over you will agree with me that this script is fabulous and deserves to be seen and performed many more times! Catch in now in its premiere run at CIC.

Ansel Burch 

Where Are You, Carmen Sanbliego? A Musical Parody 

Written by Sarah Becker, Leslie Nesbit and Cynthia Shur Petts

Running from May 2nd–June 28th @ 8pm 

Get tickets

Chemically Imbalanced Theater
1422 W. Irving Park Road
Chicago, IL 60613

The closest public transportation is the Sheridan stop on the CTA Red Line
and Irving Park stop on the CTA Brown Line.