Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

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)


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

Comedy, Improv/Sketch Reviews, Improv/Sketch/Revues, Theater, Theater Reviews No Comments »
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 »

Fall Comedy Preview 2015

-News etc., Comedy, Improv/Sketch/Revues 1 Comment »

HoneybunsYou know what they say: Every time a mime speaks a Dickensian orphan gets sucked into a jet turbine and blasted out the other side as just a scream. However, it is that cozy time of year when the hopes and dreams of summer die and we artists start making people go into weird rooms and watch us do and say things. Not every show can be the immersive interactive ever-changing theatrical wonderland tour-de-force that my show is. Newcity theater editor Zach Freeman has provided a fine fall stage preview. However, I feel I can offer a few tips—or rather “things”—to do to spice things up on a chilly fall evening at the theater (elaborate hand gesture).

If you don’t want to do my “things” I can understand. All you have to do is something that is even better. So long as you do something. Because, something must be done. Otherwise you would do nothing. Except maybe drink a box of wine, poke that old bag of mulch laying in bed next to you, and call it a night. (Honeybuns) Read the rest of this entry »

Review: A Night of Whodunnit/Under The Gun Theater

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Alex Wiseman, Matt Pina and Matt Fox

Under The Gun Theater is rife with catchy concepts. Their “Comedy Against Humanity” show was so popular that—despite an informal agreement—Cards Against Humanity objected, forcing the show to close just as it was really taking off. Walking into the theater Thursday night for “A Night of Whodunnit,” I noticed Cards Against Humanity packs for sale at the bar. A sign of no hard feelings, perhaps? Or a reminder that this is a theater that knows (and has proven) that they can deliver on concept work?

“Whodunnit” is actually a double-header, consisting of “One Story Told Week by Week” (a parody of the oh-so-popular NPR podcast “Serial”) and “The Improvised Adventures of Sherlock Holmes & Dr. Watson” (self-explanatory), in that order. The sources may differ but the theme is the same. To quote R. Kelly: “There’s a mystery going on and I’m gonna solve it.” Both shows last thirty minutes with a ten-minute intermission in between. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: VAMP: A Music Comedy Drinking Show/MCL Chicago

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Michael Shepherd Jordan and Alex Garday


Walking into the MCL Chicago space for “VAMP: A Music Comedy Drinking Show” is like walking into a raucous house party that’s just getting started. A four-piece band (Doc McCullough & The Vampers) plays frenetic jams while audience members mill around chatting and sipping from their various BYOB selections. And once the show gets started, under the direction of endearingly wry host Keenan Camp, it’s not that different from a house party itself. In fact, “VAMP,” as a whole, feels like a loosely organized, low-pressure showcase by a group of popular, talented, semi-intoxicated improvisers in a friend’s basement, with all the pros and cons associated with that scenario. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Buzzed Broadway/MCL Chicago

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Steven Lyons and Alexander Smith Photo: Heather Scholl Photography

Steven Lyons and Alexander Smith/Photo: Heather Scholl Photography

Improv is a skill. Being able to successfully improvise a storyline to music while drinking is an even greater skill. That’s the challenge the cast of “Buzzed Broadway” takes on during each performance at MCL Chicago.

Watching “Buzzed Broadway” is kind of like watching a group of drunk musical theater students at a party: it might be funny if you’re participating—and drinking along with the cast is encouraged—but if you’re sober, you’ll notice that the story doesn’t always make sense and the singing isn’t always in key. Still, it’s good for a few laughs here and there. Read the rest of this entry »

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