FORGING COMEDY FROM CHAOS
Early in The Second City’s 101st revue Let Them Eat Chaos, the excellent Second City veteran Katie Rich sits on the stage alone and alternately chats with the audience, and sings and plays some simple notes on a mini-xylophone. Mixing romantic clichés with ribbing (every parent has a least favorite child, someone in the audience was brought along by a group that doesn’t really want them there), the tone is set for a show which offers plenty of laughs with an underlying current of sweetness.
Mike Tutaj enhances Second City’s typically spartan stage, using his projection designs to frame a story about a space and time traveler, commandingly played by Tawny Newsome, who is trying to understand human life. This involves some interviews with the audience that turn into sketches, but mostly the storyline is an excuse to meander far from the topical current events – normally integrated into the troupe’s shows – to post-World War I Austria, a Panamanian bar run by a poet, and a World War II battlefield. In one particularly hilarious sketch, a Navy sailor (Steve Waltien) traveling through the Panama Canal meets a “well-informed siren” who tells him the shady history of that passage punctuated by spurts of water provided by Edgar Blackmon’s spit takes.
Musical numbers are often the highlight of Second City’s shows and Let Them Eat Chaos is no exception. This is the fourth Second City revue for musical director Julie B. Nichols and she continues to deliver with a romantic duet between Ross Bryant and Holly Laurent playing a blind violin instructor and his clumsy student, and a weirdly ominous piece with the full ensemble about cuteness. Blackmon shows why he received a Jeff Award for Best Actor in a Revue for his work at Second City in the first act finale, when he delivers a heartfelt protest rap covering school closings, gun violence, and intolerance of all sorts while looking on with incredulity as Bryant raps about his frustrations with The Hobbit and frozen yogurt as if they were of equal standing with Blackmon’s qualms.
Matt Hovde’s steadfast direction isn’t very risky, but some of the riskier direction at Second City can produce sketches that simply fall flat, and you won’t find any of that here. While there are no moments that rival the high point hilarity of anything you’ll find on the e.t.c. stage or more recent mainstage revues like South Side of Heaven and Who Do We Think We Are?, there is no drop off in quality in Chaos’s second act that I’ve come to expect from sketch comedy shows. There’s a lot to be said for that level of consistency.
Let Them Eat Chaos
The Second City Mainstage Theatre
for tickets, call 312-337-3992
or visit http://www.SecondCity.com
for info on this and other Chicago Theater,