Theater Review: THE BEST DECISION YOU’VE EVER MADE (The Second City e.t.c.’s 42nd Revue at e.t.c. Theater in Chicago)

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by Dan Zeff on October 31, 2021

in Theater-Chicago


I entered the Second City e.t.c. on opening night with a sense of unease. Two weeks earlier the Second City mainstage company, the major troupe in its cabaret theater roster, had premiered a show I thought was not up to the iconic standard of the Second City brand, and I feared the e.t.c. premiere would provide similar disappointment.

Atra Asdou, Chuck Norment, Laurel Krabacher, Mark Campbell, E.J. Cameron, Alex Bellisle.

Not to worry. The e.t.c. production, titled The Best Decision You’ve Ever Made for no discernible reason, is one of the best shows Second City has produced, including revues presented by the more established mainstage company. The e.t.c. material is funny, cogent, incisive, and creative. The themes may be steeped in the Second City comic and satirical tradition, but thanks to the fresh material, the exemplary cast, and spot-on, if unobtrusive directing, the nearly two hour performance is golden.

Laurel Krabacher, E.J. Cameron, Mark Campbell, Atra Asdou, Alex Bellisle, Chuck Norment

As usual, the revue is performed by six young people, a sextet of various gender and ethnic provenance who meld seamlessly together as an ensemble and in assorted smaller combinations. Five of the six have an e.t.c. show in their resumes: E.J. Cameron, Laurel Krabacher, Mark Campbell, Chuck Norment, and Atra Asdou. The sixth member is newcomer Alex Bellisle and she fits in flawlessly with her compatriots. By the narrowest of margins, I thought she was the best performer on the stage. Together and individually they are as appealing as any cast I can remember through several years of e.t.c. watching.

Mark Campbell, Laurel Krabacher

While the show’s material visits the usual Second City buffet of topical subjects, it does deal less in current events than one might expect in these fraught times. There is one mellow bit featuring Joe Biden but, I recall no references to the Donald during the evening. The cast performs bits skewing racial stereotypes, as well as domestic sketches, and sexual items. The subjects may be familiar but still they take on a new comic gloss — consistently pertinent, funny, and never vulgar. Blessedly, there is an absence of the expletive-drenched dialogue that blights the current mainstage show. The e.t.c. does include a few four-letter words but only to give a humorous punch-up to a line of dialogue.

Atra Asdou

The revue doesn’t dodge risky issues, notably a funny bit that got its laughs from characters in the New and Old Testament. There is one bull’s-eye quickie by Krabacher and Campbell portraying how police might treat a white women and a Black man driving while on drugs. Bellisle does a great bit accompanying herself on the guitar as she sings about being Mexican though passing for white. There is much interaction between the players and the audience, with the company soliciting ideas from the customers. The sketches inspired by the suggestions nearly all provided fertile satiric fodder, an amazing accomplishment considering how chancy improv with an audience can be. But when performers are hot, they are hot, and the e.t.c. people were very hot on opening night.

Alex Bellisle

The six performers share the writing credits, but cheers to director Frank Caeti for his invaluable guidance in giving the show its pace and shaping the individual bits into a delightful flow. Musical director Tilliski Ramey is responsible for the musical accompaniment that contributes so vigorously to the program’s high energy.

E.J. Cameron

Four Stars (out of four)

Chuck Norment

photos by Timothy M. Schmidt

Laurel Krabacher

The Best Decision You’ve Ever Made
The Second City e.t.c.’s 45th Revue
e.t.c. Theater, 230 W North Ave in Chicago
Thurs at 7; Fri & Sat at 7 and 10; Sun at 5
open run (tickets on sale thru January 1, 2022)
for tickets ($29 to $61), call 312-337-3992 or visit Second City

for more shows, visit Theatre in Chicago

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