Chicago Theater Review: THE WINNER…OF OUR DISCONTENT (The Second City’s 105th Revue)

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by Lawrence Bommer on December 10, 2016

in Theater-Chicago

PICKING UP OUR PIECES

The neatly punning title of The Second City’s 105th Mainstage Revue, The Winner…of Our Discontent, implies an anti-Trump evening. But, unlike SNL, there’s little rage and more resignation against the possible dying of democracy. Though raucous even by Second City norms and curiously free of running jokes (or many sight gags) to build the satire, Anthony LeBlanc’s staging wonders if “some things were meant to be broken.” How do we handle (or find) what’s worth rebuilding? Happily, the final scene, a graveside wake for the Democratic Party, could be a start more than a stop.

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There’s little unstoppable hilarity in a rueful revue that’s more about consolation than confrontation. It opens with the galvanizing, galloping hope that fueled both the Cubs’ World Series run and Hilary’s goal to be the first female President; clearly, excess happiness was not in the cards for the citizens of Chicago: So now a self-proclaimed “Alt-right” see themselves a synonym for “white genocide” and Supremacists sponsor a “Ku Klux Koaster” in their theme park.

Rashawn-Nadine-Scott-Martin-Morrow-Shantira-Jackson in The Second City’s Mainstage 105th Revue The Winner of our Discontent

Hillary C. (Kelsey Kinney) hosts a game show “Who Wants to Be a President?”: As the dream turns nightmare, we anticipate disruption beyond Silicon Valley standards. This improv segment proves, with a bitter new irony, that in America anyone can be President in the worst way.

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Better to stick with safe stuff, like Paul Jurewicz’s depiction of a Cubs bat boy doing double duty as a home guardian, frenetically saving a baby from a couple’s domestic dispute. Sketches depict abortions as missions impossible, lesbian roommates with anger issues, Trump’s sons (Jurewicz and Jamison Webb) doggedly dealing with their image problems, and an emergency town meeting in Altoona, Iowa where the Russians have hacked their paltry reasons for existence.

Paul-Jurewicz in Second City Mainstage. The Winner of our Discontent

More topical tomfoolery: A driver’s ed class gets derailed when the instructor, a frustrated drama teacher (Rashawn Nadine Scott), insists on putting motivation and Method over the rules of the road. Even more innocuous is the proposal to make “Uncle Week” replace “Shark Week” as a terror-raising ratings booster. In a crazy mashup, a patient in pain from an appendectomy (Martin Morrow) is berated for not being instantly cheered up by Webb’s “Bassman,” a juiced-up jazzman exploding with phony cheerfulness.

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So much of this hit-and-run humor is fast and furious that the quiet scenes stand out as much for their restraint as the writing, like how whites and blacks see the same situations diametrically differently. Toward show’s end, the sketch comedy turns therapeutic: Having just lost his dad, a 14-year-old (Kelsey Kinney) seeks counsel from Scott’s sympathetic psychic who opines how “Fortune favors the brave.” Likewise, a grandson learns that being sick (at heart) and unsatisfied is the price we pay for not sacrificing our dreams.

Martin-Morrow-Shantira-Jackson--Second City Mainstage. The Winner of our Discontent

If, fueled by “discontent,” not dissent, Second City’s new show seems more about making the best of a bad deal, well, perhaps that’s a tribute to the temperature-taking of this comic corporation. By now they’ve learned what doesn’t make us laugh as much as the complex chemistry of comedy. As the press release suggests, “our differences are what make America great.” In 2016 the fear is that they’re too big to be bridged, even by laughter.

12/4/16 7:36:45 PM The Second City’s Mainstage 105th Revue The Winner of our Discontent Featuring Shantira Jackson Paul Jurewicz Kelsey?Kinney Martin Morrow Rashawn Nadine Scott Jamison Webb Music Director Vinnie Pillarella © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2016

photos by Todd Rosenberg

back-Jamison-Webb-Shantira-Jackson-Paul-Jurewicz-Rashawn-Nadine-Scott-Martin-Morrow-and-front-Kelsey-Kinney--Second City Mainstage. The Winner of our Discontent

The Winner…of Our Discontent
The Second City’s 105th Revue
The Second City Mainstage Theatre, 1616 N. Wells St
Tues – Thurs at 8; Fri and Sat at 8 & 11; Sun at 7
ends on July 27, 2017
for tickets, call 312-337-3992 or visit Second City

for more shows, visit Theatre in Chicago

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Nikki Smith December 11, 2016 at 8:17 am

Good review. The last line is chilling.

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