Review: Immersive Flotsam and Jetsam, Karaoke and Cocktails at Whim Chicago

What do theater artists do when creative offerings morph post-COVID? What do theatrical spaces become in this life-after-coronavirus reset? Creators gonna create, here with a new experience called Whim Chicago, an immersive “art on top of art” experience, kinda like a year-round haunted house. 

What used to be the Theatre Building, later Stage 773, at 1225 W. Belmont in Lakeview, a performance multiplex with three stages, large lobby and a bar, is now an events space with plenty of eye candy on every surface throughout several rooms to accompany your carousing and conversation. 

The venue should be a welcome newcomer to the birthday or bachelorette party crowd, or as a unique office event choice, should your employer still have the right to force fun and teambuilding on you and your coworkers. 

Upon entering, the iconic previous lighting fixtures, spheres of kitchen colanders, have been replaced by the quite low ceilings of an intimate cocktail bar that serves a variety of mostly sweet drinks, like the Nosey Rosey (prosecco and pomegranate juice with a spritz of rose water) and the Fluffy Punch (rum, pineapple juice, raspberry syrup topped by cotton candy), alongside a small selection of beer (tap, cans and bottles) and wine (by the glass or bottle), but no food offerings.

While sipping liquid fortification, patrons can walk around or sit within the Lobby of Second Chances. The open space (with less claustrophobic ceilings) is decorated with a 3D explosion of found objects like action figures, paper airplanes, and ladders, featuring a seating alcove of clocks. 

Nearby is the Enchanted Forest room, also filled with ephemera, featuring a stage for performances, such as karaoke on Thursdays, plus improv, standup and music on the weekends, with acts like Bear Williams, Street Jaxkson, and the Low Expectations Band. 

Time (or lack thereof) is a recurring theme throughout the venue, and especially with the 30-minute timed tour of what used to be the performance stages. Now a collection of oddball rooms and interactive moments, time as the “ultimate equalizer” is first portrayed with graffiti. Originally tagged by real artists, participants are now encouraged to make their own marks with Sharpie scrawls. 

Next is the sepia-toned room of creepy dolls, where the hidden creator reminds that “perfection is a waste of time.”

A hidden doorway leads to a drawing room turned on its side with a decidedly Disney feel, followed by another onslaught of clocks in a thrifters’ delight. (There was some time-themed music piped into the rooms during the stroll, but I kept craving Pink Floyd’s Time.)

A hallway of stacked books, sculpted as archways, looked like a Little Free Library tribute.

The black-lit Self-Reflection space was next, inhabited by wall monsters (“that we create in our heads?” the curator asked), then the Time to Play room, replete with primary color Wonder Bread cum Twister dots, hanging paper lanterns and Slinkys, and a working piano.

There’s a morgue with wall slots and a metal gurney, which invites viewers to write and leave a toe tag, asking “what would you leave behind”? (Many had penned “bitches,” but my contribution was “Spanx.”) Finally, the tour ends at a wishing trashcan fire, complete with pennies to pitch, commingling change with time. 

The experience is a celebration of repurposing—objects, identities, vocations—in a grandmother’s house array of bric-a-brac. Impermanence is a crucial consideration these days, what with pandemics, climate crisis, and the seemingly unstoppable rise of the kakistocracy.

Time should help polish this unique undertaking, like the hope that 21st-century gender inclusions should be employed. The introduction of “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure” should instead become “one person’s junk in another person’s treasure.” A coat check would be nice to feel fully unfettered among the displays during winter months. The cotton candy drink topping must be placed at the rim, not touching the drink, so the imbiber gets the pleasure of watching the spun sugar vanish. Sadly, I was unable to watch the death of my rose floss in real time. 

“Whim” is open Thursdays through Saturdays 6pm-2am for ages 18+. Non-refundable tickets are $25 (+ $5 processing fee) and include one free signature mock- or cocktail, immersive walkthrough, and shows in the Enchanted Forest. The space at 1225 W. Belmont is located just west of the Belmont CTA stop, and street parking is limited. For info about groups and accessibility, please email

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Karin McKie

Karin McKie is a Chicago freelance writer, cultural factotum and activism concierge. She jams econo.