Sex, Love & the Second City
At the UP Comedy Club
By Dan Zeff
Chicago – Second City is expanding its cabaret empire by one new Chicago venue currently housing five shows. The operation carries the umbrella title of the UP Comedy Club, located on the third floor of Piper’s Alley near the Second City Mainstage and e.t.c. performance spaces.
by John McCloskey
The UP Comedy Club resides in the area once occupied by a multi-year run of “Tony and Tina’s Wedding.” The interior has been remodeled into a theater that can seat about 280 people, making it maybe the biggest of the three Second City cabaret spaces. The shiny modern look is a considerable departure from the traditional grungy look of the Mainstage and e.t.c., and it’s more comfortable. There is the usual bar service and patrons can dine on a basic menu of sandwiches, burgers, and pizza, along with nachos, chicken wings, and other standard appetizers.
The five shows have various playing times, including lunch performances for some shows on Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. The five shows are the “Improv Extravaganza Explosion;” a comedy revue called “Sex, Love & the Second City;” a 60-minute news show titled “Chicago Live;” a kind of Best of Second City called “The Second City’s History of Chicago;” and “The Second City Improv All-Stars.” In addition to the permanent productions, the club is also booking stand-up comedy acts for brief runs.
saw “Sex, Love & the Second City,” a show close in spirit and execution to
the revues on the Mainstage and e.t.c. The evening is a continuous riff on
male-female relationships, with an emphasis on the social networking that
impact the dating game today, like texting, tweeting, and electronic dating
Photo by Michael Brosilow
The slings and arrows of finding a significant other are portrayed by four characters—Edrick (Ed Kross), Dorinda (Amanda Blake Davis), Travis (Jimmy Carlson), and Allie (Carisa Barreca). Edrick is the nerdy guy who can’t attract a female socially. Dorinda is living a life of first dates that never graduate into second encounters. Travis is the male who avoids commitment and Allie is the young woman exasperated by all his shilly shallying.
The show proceeds through a string of scenes connected by video appearances from (Second City alumni Fred Willard), a shill for a dating service called iLove. Willard’s talking head proudly proclaims that none of iLove’s clients have ever been divorced because none of them has ever been married.
Second City gives the show an R rating, based on the ample use of profanity and a few sexually explicit situations (but nothing really graphic and definitely no nudity). The scenes touch the familiar bases in the weary, tension-filled trek to finding a soul mate, or at least a satisfactory first date. The tone is resolutely heterosexual (with the exception of one funny scene with Carlson hitting on a flummoxed Ed Kross) with a strong whiff of WASP yuppie-dom.
Photo by Michael Brosilow
“Sex, Love & the Second City” is not cutting edge cabaret. A couple of attempts at improvisation fell flat on opening night, through no fault of the actors. The audience gave them little to feed on but another night the improv bits could be hilarious. What the spectator gets is material that’s amusing but doesn’t stimulate belly laughs. There are some sharp lines but overall the show is not filled with insights about the mating rituals of today’s singles. The satire quotient is modest. Instead, the revue goes for characters who are mostly likable and audience-high in their sensibilities. All in all, it’s an easy to take show ideal for a couple’s first date.
The revue is blessed with a solid four-member ensemble who work comfortably with each other. Ed Kross has been one of the funniest and most under-used comic actors in Chicagoland theater for years and it’s a pleasure to see him at the top of his game as poor Edrick, groping without success for any kind of relationship with any kind of female. Kross also can deliver a more in-your-face performance, as when he tells his about-to-be-married son some hard truths about marriage and the pitfalls of spending your life with one woman. Davis gives a winning performance as the forlorn romance-seeking Dorinda. Kross and Davis are both so sympathetic that they occasionally drew groans of commiseration from the audience when prospective dating partners treated Edrick and Dorinda with particular insensitivity. Carlson and Barreca both turned in solid performances and it’s not their fault their Travis and Allie were often upstaged by their woebegone colleagues.
Fred Willard’s video commentary provides some nice segways between scenes and is the only technological bit in the revue. Otherwise, set designer Sarah Ross makes do with a bare stage and four chairs. Matt Guthier is responsible for the costumes. Jimmy Carson’s directing keeps the pace brisk and lets the talented four actors do their thing.
“Sex, Love & the Second City” is playing an open run at the UP Comedy Club, 230 West North Avenue in Pipers Alley. Performances are Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2:30 p.m., and Sunday at 4:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 and $35. For information on all the club shows, call 312 662 4562 or visit www.UPComedyClub.com .
The show gets a rating of three stars.
Contact Dan at firstname.lastname@example.org. February 2012
Like Dan on Facebook. Become a friend!!!