Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

Review: Pony Boy/The Annoyance Theatre

Comedy, Improv/Sketch Reviews No Comments »
Photo: Evan Mills

John Loos, Chris Kervick, Erin Fleming and Wanjiku Kairu/Photo: Evan Mills

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a small town in America must be in possession of repressed women in want of entrepreneurial men to sweep them off their Hush Puppies-clad feet and relieve them of the pennies they keep in pickle jars buried under the chicken coop—or, as it may be, of the fortunes they have amassed peddling methamphetamines. This is the premise of “Pony Boy,” directed by Andy Eninger with music by Brad Kemp, currently playing at the Annoyance. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Smut: The Improvised Romantic Book Club/Under The Gun Theater

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Smut Poster

RECOMMENDED

Sex sells and the more of it the better for the bottom line. This is as true in movies as it is for literature with books like “Fifty Shades of Grey” dominating the romance aisle of Barnes and Noble. We might pretend to like sweet romance but in the end we go for the smut. This is true across the board with smutty love scenes liberally added into romance, fantasy, comedy and every other genre you can think of. Under the Gun Theater explores this phenomenon with “Smut: The Improvised Romantic Book Club.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Holidazed and Confused/The Second City

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 Casey Whitaker, Martin Morrow, Kelsey Kinney, Ali Barthwell, Jasbir Singh, Charles Pettitt (photo by Kirsten Miccoli)

Casey Whitaker, Martin Morrow, Kelsey Kinney, Ali Barthwell, Jasbir Singh and Charles Pettitt/Photo: Kirsten Miccoli

RECOMMENDED

I must preface this review by noting that the type of comedy you enjoy is a matter of preference. With that said, The Second City’s “Holidazed and Confused Revue” is not for everyone. However, if quirky, SNL-like sketch comedy is what gets your laughter bug going then this show is a perfect way to spend your holiday season. Here, Second City plays to that crowd and from the uproarious laughter in the room they didn’t disappoint. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Fool Me Twice, Déjà Vu/The Second City

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Rashawn Nadine Scott,      Daniel Strauss,      Sarah Shook,      Jamison Webb, Paul Jurewicz, Chelsea Devantez/Photo: Todd Rosenberg

Rashawn Nadine Scott, Daniel Strauss, Sarah Shook, Jamison Webb, Paul Jurewicz, Chelsea Devantez/Photo: Todd Rosenberg

RECOMMENDED

By the time the titular déjà vu kicks in during the second act of this fast-paced revue (Second City’s 104th on the mainstage), the audience is already so heavily invested in the six comedians on stage that they’ll follow them anywhere—through time, bizarre family meltdowns and even straight into the heart of the heavy, ultra-relevant relationship between Chicago’s (and America’s) people of color and police officers. Aside from the unprecedentedly intricate interlacing and layering between the scenes in the first and second acts, it’s the depth of the (funny but hard-hitting) sociopolitical messages interspersed throughout that brings this show to the next level. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Second City’s Fast, Loud & Funny/The Second City

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Saurabh Pande, Dana Quercioli, Asher Perlman, Ryan Asher, Kevin Sciretta and Nicole C. Hastings

Pulling sketch material from various past revues, this mash-up succeeds in bringing, as the introductory voiceover promises, “speed, volume and hilarity” to weekend matinees and Tuesday nights. And though there are a number of big misses (unfortunately placed at the very start in a proposal scene at an Applebee’s and at the very end in an improvised eighties action flick that flopped hard at the show I saw), the solid hits throughout make for a delightful introduction to Second City-style comedy. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Stormtrooper Stories/The Public House Theatre

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StormtrooperStories Artwork (1)

RECOMMENDED

Writer-director Byron Hatfield offers a different perspective on the Star Wars saga in “Stormtrooper Stories,” a comedy about two inept troopers (Matthew Lamson and Mark Rosenthal) who just cannot catch a break. Whether it be pulling traffic duty on Tatooine or watching a fellow trooper be “magic choked” to death, these two intergalactic soldiers stumble over more territory than the Millennium Falcon. And in the process they realize that maybe, just maybe, they’re not actually the good guys. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: One Act, Primarily Nonsense and Horror of Terror/Theatre Momentum

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Photo: Darron R. Birgenheier

Photo: Darron R. Birgenheier

Theatre Momentum has launched a troika of forty-five-minute productions which all stem from their goal of creating improvised theatrical events that are more like plays than games. While all three performances are technically one-acts, one of the three is entitled “One Act.” This is the show that anchors the line-up. Under Tony Rielage’s direction, a cast of nine actors (only six of whom were performing on the evening I attended) create a series of scenes in a montage long-form-improv structure. There is no audience prompt to kick things off, which neither adds to nor detracts from the overall improvisational nature of the performance. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Act Accordingly/Brand New Toys

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Tyler Pate,      Sal Mascali, Mark Campbell, Tony Czajkowski, Jake Grafstein/Photo: Molly Kom

Tyler Pate, Sal Mascali, Mark Campbell, Tony Czajkowski, Jake Grafstein/Photo: Molly Kom

When I attend a sketch comedy show, I want to walk away having enjoyed myself. I also want to be able to tell people about the sketches that I just saw. You know, in that same sort of way that people like to talk about SNL at work on Monday morning. With “Act Accordingly,” the members of Brand New Toys keep the viewer entertained for sixty minutes, no small feat, but those sixty minutes are promptly forgotten when exiting the Public House Theatre. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: My Fucking Scene Partner Didn’t Learn Their Lines/Under The Gun and The New Colony

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tim-sam-mollieIt’s hard to find a consistently good improv troupe. To gain the distinction of being good at anything requires a record of success, which is hard enough for the subjective art that is comedy without adding on the additional hurdle of creating your own content every night. Judging that art, then, is even harder, because only so much can be gained from a single exposure to the variable work.

So I’m not certain if the concept of the Under The Gun and The New Colony collaboration show “M.F.S.P.D.L.T.L.” (sorry, word limits) is a good one or a bad one for improv. Certainly, it sounds like it’s perfect: an actor from The New Colony performs half the dialogue in a scene from a New Colony play, while an Under The Gun ensemble member improvises the responses, with no idea what’s coming next. Naturally, this leads to moments of confusion, where the improv comes into direct conflict with the script. In the show I saw, the improviser introduced himself as Bob, but was immediately referred to as Todd in the next line. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Dan & Kate’s Book Club/The Annoyance Theatre

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“We are bibliophiles, we know every book known to man.” So begins “Dan & Kate’s Book Club,” a Friday-night foray into literature for the ludicrous. If you are truly a bibliophile, and the idea of an improvised show based off your favorite esoteric novel appeals to you, this show will either tickle your erudite sensibilities or disappoint you until you make snarky comments about how you didn’t expect them to know that author anyway. Read the rest of this entry »