WINDY CITY TIMES
||THEATER REVIEW Depraved New World
by Jonathan Abarbanel, Windy City Times
This article shared 4049 times since Wed Apr 2, 2014
Playwright: The cast At: The Second City, 1616 N. Wells St. Tickets: 1-312-337-3992; www.SecondCity.com; from $23 Runs through: open run
For 55 years The Second City has been a reliable good night out. Smart critics long ago stopped judging its revues on their political content or university wit, hallmarks of the troupe's early years with which ever-fewer folks are familiar ( although I am among them ). It's better to ask if the players are sharp as ever and if the new revue is in step with the times, and Depraved New World answers with a formidable "YES!"
Politics and wit aren't completely off the table, of course. This revue offers a wry commentary on debates over Obamacare, a knowing wink to openly gay players emerging in professional sports and a pair of funny, pointed commentaries on race, built around light-skinned actor Tawny Newsome. As for wit, there's a quote from a Langston Hughes poem ( a well-done nod to the old days ) but it's more likely to manifest itself in knowing the musical style of Phish rather than Villa- Lobos.
With insouciant but dedicated Mick Napier as director, one counts on two things: long-form improv techniques a la Del Close, and a touch of the surreal. Napier and his merry pranksters do not disappoint. While not a fully formed "Harold" ( as long-form improvisation is dubbed ), the show takes off from a central premisethe voices in our heads we can't turn off, often defeatist or devilishand features several repeating characters and scenes. The first act is intellectually-sharp although not filled with big laughs, but Act II is bloody brilliant as a combination of audience-interactive improv and surreal moments take Depraved New World to the moon. On an audience suggestion, Newsome improvised a riff on avocados and guacamole equal to the legendary improvs of Severn Darden, followed minutes later by a full-cast improvised song on the suggestion of an umbrella. Even if the basic song structure is worked out in advance, it's a high-risk form of group improv which the cast of six handles to beat the band.
Speaking of the band, Jesse Case triples as musical director, composer and sound designer and Depraved New World offers the most complex use to date at The Second City of music, sound and sampling. Case truly is a seventh cast member, or Napier's co-director. Bob Knuth's set design also shines, an elegant Deco-inspired cream-and-silver facade. The cast of three men and three women freely essay cross-gender roles and polyamorous matings. At least two scenes are specifically gay: a blind date from hell and the song of a "Poor Little Rent Boy" in love with a Senator. Both feature dynamic John Hartman, who animates devil or twink with laserlike focus. Chelsea Devantez, Mike Kosinski, Emily Walker and Steve Waltien complete the excellent cast of this brave new revue.
This article shared 4049 times since Wed Apr 2, 2014
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