The current show at Second City’s e.t.c. features a lot of jokes—and by jokes I mean jokes: set up, punch line. I tend to prefer the sketch that develops a character and finds the comedy within. But jokes work, too. “Come in, ” someone says two seconds before the knock on the door. It’s stupid, but you laugh. Unconventional wit may be lacking in “Pratfall of Civilization” (directed by Marc Warzecha), but the ensemble has a nice, easy chemistry that allows each performer to stretch his or her legs. The show includes a number of structured improv bits, and the cast—prowling through the audience in search of victims and inspiration—is relaxed enough to make these moments as funny as the scripted stuff. On stage, the humor is often visual. (The multimedia, on the other hand—a new addition pairing literal-minded slides with each sketch—neither adds nor detracts from the show.) Looking ridiculous is the hallmark of comedy, and the men, at least, take this to heart. Rob Janus, playing a closeted metrosexual, makes the most of his entrance in a pair of oversized women’s sunglasses. A riff on the movie “300” has Janus, Alex Fendrich and Andy St. Clair performing as bare-chested Spartans; let’s just say employment at Second City does not require a tan or beefcake physique. The women, too, are clever—but lacking memorable character work, they become simply “the girl” in each sketch. It is worth mentioning that Amanda Blake Davis, who I thought pushed too hard in her debut last year, has developed into a potent comedian—intense but confident. She and St. Clair throw down as a rapping duo called Dick-n-Ballz; the premise of the sketch is just OK (what would rap sound like without the profanity?), but their performance goes all the way, and is less about white people pretending to be street than a pointed distillation of gangsta posturing. Plus, it’s funny. (Nina Metz)
This production is now closed.