Chicago Theater Review: DEPRAVED NEW WORLD (Second City)

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by Samantha Nelson on April 7, 2014

in Theater-Chicago

SECOND CITY DEPRAVED
AND BACK ON TRACK

Dark thoughts, insecurity and regrets may seem like particularly bleak material to base a sketch comedy show around, but their universality makes them strong subjects. Placed in the hands of the extremely talented cast performing on The Second City’s main stage, Depraved New World offers some huge laughs along with surprisingly touching moments.

(L-R) John Hartman, Chelsea Devantez, and Emily Walker in The Second City’s 102nd review, DEPRAVED NEW WORLD.

Throughout the show, people are freaked out for fear that someone doesn’t like their jokes or they might offend someone by mistaking their race or that their grandparents are being molested at their nursing home. As much is at might focus on anxiety, the show is also about dismissing those demons and embracing yourself. That theme is particularly entertaining in the male ensemble’s song about beauty coming in all shapes and sizes—they point out that they’re all skinny white guys with brown hair—and the female version “Don’t Date a Douche,” in which the gals assure that they can do better than a guy who only eats at restaurants with televisions; yes, it’s OK to order a large pizza just for themselves.

(L-R) John Hartman, Chelsea Devantez, Emily Walker, Tawny Newsome, and Steve Waltien in The Second City’s 102nd review, DEPRAVED NEW WORLD.

Starting with an opening song that shows the full cast as co-workers struggling with their own fears, director Mick Napier uses stark primary color-lit panels from lighting and technical director Kyle Anderson to indicate when the action is happening inside someone’s head, with the audience listening to their anxiety-ridden thoughts. Once the audience is familiar with the effect, the show dramatically breaks from the formula in a reprisal of a scene in which main stage veterans Tawny Newsome and Mike Kosinski dance in front of an abstract Paris background, having overcome their fears and made a connection.

(L-R) John Hartman, Mike Kosinski, and Steve Waltien in The Second City’s 102nd review, DEPRAVED NEW WORLD.

Newsome and Kosinski are both amazingly talented and it’s a shame that Newsome is underutilized since she shines in any scene she’s in, especially when executing musical director Jesse Case’s songs. Her improv chops are also on display when she rattles off the nutritional benefits of a food chosen by an audience member.

(L-R) John Hartman, Mike Kosinski, Steve Waltien, Tawny Newsome, Chelsea Devantez, and Emily Walker in The Second City’s 102nd review, DEPRAVED NEW WORLD.

Instead, newcomer John Hartman feels overexposed, used in any scene where Napier wants someone flailing, being creepy, or making weird noises. Granted, he’s great at all of those things, as well as being totally in over his head as he’s being seduced by the rest of the cast in the song “Firefighter Orgy.” Yet his gimmicks wear in some sketches, such as the one where he plays a YouTube video maker that’s a grating combination of Napoleon Dynamite and South Park‘s Eric Cartman. It was nice to see that he’s also capable of taking on a subdued role when sitting across from Kosinski in a scene about two guys set up on a blind date even though the only thing they have in common is that they’re gay.

(L-R) Steve Waltien, Tawny Newsome, John Hartman, Emily Walker, Mike Kosinski and Chelsea Devantez in The Second City’s 102nd review, DEPRAVED NEW WORLD.

Most of the show’s long form sketches fall short, including a sketch where the high point is Emily Walker’s turn as a cranky parrot, and another with a bizarre breakup in a trailer park. A scene with two people having a circular argument about Obamacare went on for so long without a real punch line that it felt like they might have been waiting for someone in the audience to break the cycle. But at least Second City is taking risks again after the tepid Let Them Eat Chaos. They might not always pay off, but when they do its well worth it.

(L-R) Tawny Newsome and Mike Kosinski in The Second City’s 102nd review DEPRAVED NEW WORLD.

photos by Todd Rosenberg

(L-R) Tawny Newsome and Mike Kosinski in The Second City’s 102nd review, DEPRAVED NEW WORLD.Depraved New World
The Second City
Mainstage Theatre, 1616 N. Wells
Tuesday – Thursday at 8
Friday & Saturday at 8 & 11
Sunday at 7
ends on November 30, 2014
for tickets, call 312-337-3992
or visit Second City

for more shows, visit Theatre in Chicago

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