Tonight we made a trip to Japan, or should I say, the food and entertainment of Japan, but in Old Town. The restaurant where the action takes place is Kamehachi located in its new digs at 1531 N. Wells Street. As we entered the building, and walked towards the dining area, the hostess informed us that the “Batsu” show and dinner would take place on the second floor. As we walked up the stairs, we could hear the music and lots of people’s voices and laughter and knew that this would be a fun-filled evening.
“Batsu” has just arrived in Chicago after 6 big years in New York. It is an interactive improv Japanese “game show” allowing us to take part in the almost two hours of laughs and “punishment” (“Batsu” means punishment). There is a stage surrounded by tables in front and to the rear. On each linen covered table, a small decanter of sake (if you purchase the VIP ticket) and a “Batsu” headband (if you have the headband, you are allowed refills on the sake). The menu is that of any normal dining room with great appetizers. We enjoyed an order of Edamame (steamed soybean pods) and ordered several sushi rolls: Alaskan Maki (Alaskan snow crab, cucumber and asparagus), Chicago Crazy Roll (tuna, crabstick, salmon, massago, lettuce and cucumber), the Kamehachi Roll, the Spicy Salmon Deluxe and the Tempura Shrimp Roll. This was just the right amount for the two of us.
We enjoyed our sushi as the show began, promptly at 8 p.m. we were introduced to the concept, the show and the players. Four “warriors” compete in comedy challenges to avoid the punishment that will come their way if (and when) they lose. The punishment comes in the way of being shot with paint balls, electric shocks, an egg-smashing chicken, being wacked on the head and stomach with what appears to be a wad of paper, and even being made to dance in a tutu to the music of “The Nutcracker.”
The four warriors were Paul, Nate, Tyler and Eric. They were dressed in black robes and under the robes had t-shirts with the Batsu logo. When we first came in, these men were the hosts who sat us down and brought us our waiter. In fact, the staff all seems to behave as a unit, and a party unit at that. They were having as much fun as we were. The show lasts about 1 hour and 45 minutes and is fairly continuous, but the partons are free to come and go as needed. Most did not want to take a break, so they would not miss a beat, or their chance to be in the show. Prior to the start, those who are willing to be involved fill out a waiver/release form so that the production company can use the photos taken during the show on their “social media” outlets.
The “games” were very close to ones we have seen in the past. Drew Carey had a TV show where he had three other comics who did improv competition in a similar manner. The audience yells out words and having the “warriors” tell stories using the words tossed out to earn points. They all want to be “the last comic standing.” As they compete, the loser can get paint-balled or something else, and we, the audience, yell out “Batsu,” then take a drink to toast the winner. There were beer drinking contests (a very cute idea), rap story-telling, an Olympics contest over oral hygiene (not as funny as the others), and a wild-balloon pop (no hands).
This was more “cabaret” than theater, but it was an experience that I am glad we were able to have. If you have out-of-towners visiting, this might be a perfect evening of food and fun for all. Tickets for the show itself range from $25.50 – $45.50 (this is the VIP which includes the Saki for each ticket and a headband). To reserve your space, which is somewhat limited, go to email@example.com. You can also call 347-985-0368.
The upstairs menu is the same menu as the main restaurant with very affordable prices. The bar makes a great drink using the best of liquors and charging no more than restaurants off the main streets. Congrats on doing the right thing! Based on the success of the first five weeks and the good time we enjoyed tonight, I would imagine “Batsu” will be here for a long time (providing these Warriors survive the “Batsu” they face).