Chicago Theater Review: DREAM FREAKS FALL FROM SPACE (The Second City’s 106th Revue)

by Samantha Nelson on October 30, 2017

in Theater-Chicago

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FREAK OUT

Comedy writers have complained about the challenge of writing jokes during the Trump administration. There’s too much material. And the breakneck pace of news, scandals and crises coming out of Washington make a joke written in the morning likely to be no longer timely by the evening.

The Second City refreshes its scripts throughout the multi-month run of its sketch comedy reviews, but it’s not interested in keeping up with the satire du jour. Its latest revue, Dream Freaks Fall from Space, has a few political jokes, but they’re the sort that would have worked last January and will still likely work next January.

There’s Tyler Davis on a guitar singing about the challenge of broaching politics with a new girlfriend, and whether he can accept that she voted for Trump if she at least regrets it. The show’s at its most biting when Nate Varrone plays a shirtless Putin on horseback explaining to the audience that Trump is just a symptom of a greater problem with America and even removing him in office won’t fix things, much in the way spraying Febreze in the bathroom but not flushing the toilet will just make it smell like “Febreze and poopy toilet.” The whole cast dons cardboard cutouts of Trump’s face to perform a bit of ballet to “Send in the Clowns.”

That last sketch is most indicative of the rest of the show, which leans heavily on absurdity. It’s a decent tactic in a time of high anxiety and political fatigue, but not enough of the sketches deliver. A scene where Varrone is a time traveler posing as a classic rock DJ gets a huge laugh when he removes his disguise, peeling off a fake moustache to reveal the nearly identical real one beneath, but then fades into an overly long gag about spelling out BOOBS on an old-fashioned calculator. A segment where a group debates how to survive the apocalypse and votes to exile Varrone’s crazy gun nut into the wilderness is more awkward than funny.

There are some high points that make the absurdity work. Director Ryan Bernier makes the most of the theater’s space by positioning Varrone on a catwalk dressed in a Waldo costume as he hides from a furious Kelsey Kinney. “You slept with my sister,” she yells at him. “Are you sure it was me?” he responds. “There are lots of people who look sort of like me.” Tien Tran, who comes straight from the Second City e.t.c. stage’s current revue, is by far the strongest member of the cast. She is showcased with a song (asking parents to consider the possibility their baby might be gay) and her manic energy (sharing the story of a camping trip gone horribly wrong).

Improv and audience interaction is plentiful and delightful. The cast seems to genuinely be having fun, cracking each other up during a game taken from a life change that a patron is considering.

The country may be divided but Jeffrey Murdoch brings the whole audience together at the end of the show to cheer him on as he removes a suit from a backpack, strips and then puts the rumpled clothes on. There’s no logic behind the gag, no deeper meaning. Like the rest of Dream Freaks it’s just silly and fun.

photos by Todd Rosenberg

Dream Freaks Fall from Space
The Second City’s 106th Revue
The Second City Mainstage Theatre
1616 N. Wells St
Tues – Thurs at 8;
Fri and Sat at 8 & 11; Sun at 7
open run
for tickets, call 312-337-3992
or visit Second City

for more shows, visit Theatre in Chicago

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