Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre’s unusual moniker is a mash-up of classical languages: theo, from the Greek, for “god”; ubique from the Latin, for “everywhere,” as in a ubiquitous presence.
Over the past decade and a half, Theo Ubique has felt like an omnipresent part of the Off Loop theater scene—particularly at the annual Non-Equity Jeff Awards, where the company has racked up a remarkable 51 wins out of 132 nominations since becoming eligible in 2005. But its success has also been tied to one very specific place: Rogers Park’s scruffy, shoeboxesque No Exit Cafe, where Theo Ubique has staged all of its mostly musical productions since 2004’s A Kurt Weill Review.
“The No Exit really is a character in itself,” says Ubique founder and artistic director Fred Anzevino of the space, which was a coffeehouse that, for much of the ’80s and ’90s, hosted performance art and poetry.
Theo Ubique kept that feel for its cabaret-style productions: Audience members sit at candlelit tables, which neighborhood staple Heartland Cafe provides with food and drinks; before the show and at intermission, costumed cast members double as servers. Anzevino calls it “urban dinner theater.”
Yet the current season is Theo Ubique’s last at the No Exit; this fall, the company plans to move into its own space a few blocks north on Howard Street, just across the Evanston border. The challenge, Anzevino says, will be to replicate the intimate, communal experience for which the company is known, along with its well-deserved reputation for discovering fresh talent.
For its last fully scripted show at the No Exit this spring (a retrospective revue will close things out in the summer), Anzevino called an audible and canceled the previously announced Finian’s Rainbow when he found the licensing rights suddenly available for a show he’d been after for years: Sweeney Todd. He’ll put Theo Ubique’s spin on the darkly comic Stephen Sondheim musical about a vengeful serial killer and his lovelorn accomplice, a pie maker who disposes of the evidence in her merchandise.
The operatic performer Philip Torre and the musical-theater talent Jacquelyne Jones are slated to star. The No Exit, naturally, will serve meat pies before Theo Ubique’s swan song.