Chicago Theater Review: SEX, LOVE & THE SECOND CITY: A ROMANTIC DOT COMEDY (Second City)

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by Dan Zeff on February 18, 2012

in Theater-Chicago


Sex Love & the Second City - chicago theater review by Dan ZeffSecond City is expanding its cabaret empire in a 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.

One of three Second City cabaret spaces, the Club resides in the area once occupied by a multi-year run of Tony and Tina’s Wedding, The shiny modern look of the remodeled interior, which seats about 280, 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 as follows: Sex, Love & The Second City, a comedy revue; Chicago Live, a 60-minute news show; The Second City’s History of Chicago, a kind of Best of Second City; The Second City Improv All-Stars; and the Improv Extravaganza Explosion. In addition to the permanent productions, the club is also booking stand-up comedy acts for brief runs.

I 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, such as texting, tweeting, and electronic dating sites, hence the subtitle A Romantic Dot Comedy.

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, socially inept guy who can’t attract a female. 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 of his shillyshallying

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 is really graphic and there is 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 (excepting one funny scene in which Carlson hits on a flummoxed Kross) with a strong whiff of WASP yuppie-dom.

The revue is blessed with a solid four-member ensemble, all of whom work comfortably with each other. For years, Ed Kross has been one of the funniest and most under-used comic actors in Chicagoland theater. 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 is equally adept with a more in-your-face performance, as when he tells his about-to-be-married son some hard truths about matrimony 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.

Sex Love & the Second City - chicago theater review by Dan ZeffFred Willard’s video commentary provides some nice segues between scenes and is the only technological bit in the revue. Otherwise, Matt Guthier is responsible for the costumes, and set designer Sarah Ross makes do with a bare stage and four chairs. Jimmy Carson’s directing keeps the pace brisk and lets the talented four actors do their thing.

Sex, Love & the Second City is not cutting edge cabaret. A couple of attempts at improvisation fell flat on opening night, through little fault of the actors, as the audience gave them nothing to feed on (the improv bits are normally 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 that are mostly likable and audience-high in their sensibilities. All in all, it’s an easy-to-take show which, ironically or not, is ideal for a couple’s first date.

photos by Michael Brosilow

Sex, Love & The Second City: A Romantic Dot Comedy
Second City at the UP Comedy Club
ends on April 4, 2012
for tickets, visit UP Comedy Club

for more shows, visit Theatre in Chicago

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