Second City’s journey to ‘Depraved New World’ disappoints
By HEDY WEISS Theater Critic March 28, 2014 4:16PM
(L-R) Tawny Newsome, Chelsea Devantez, and Emily Walker in Second City mainstage revue "Depraved New World." • Photo by TODD ROSENBERG
THE SECOND CITY IN
‘DEPRAVED NEW WORLD’
When: Open run
Where: The Second City, 1616 N. Wells
Tickets : $24-$29
Info: (312) 337-3992;
Run time: 2 hours, one intermission
Updated: March 28, 2014 8:13PM
I had high hopes for The Second City’s new mainstage show, “Depraved New World,” whose title riffs on Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” the eerily prescient futuristic 1932 novel. But the company’s 102nd revue, under the direction of Mick Napier (with fine music direction by Jesse Case), turns out to be disappointingly sophomoric, despite the impressive physicality of many in its six-person cast.
As it happens, two of the most entertaining sketches on opening night were fully improvised so will never be repeated. One involved an American couple (Tawny Newsome and Mike Kosinski) who are traveling in Uzbekistan and are worried about filing their taxes on time. They just happen to encounter the best CPA in that country (Steve Waltien), who explains how his country taxes extracts money from its people. The other involved the droll presence of an attractive audience “volunteer” cast as a man being interrogated on a lunar base who kept the “fishing” and “Phish” (the band) metaphors biting.
The revue’s essential premise is that we walk around with second-guessing voices in our head, and the world would probably be even worse off if everyone were to say what they were really thinking to themselves. Yet some would argue people already expose all. And never is there a moment in this show that matches the hilarity of Keegan-Michael Key’s “Obama’s Anger Translator” on Comedy Central.
A great idea does lurk in the notion that a defense attorney (Waltien) would suddenly blurt out in court that all the evidence suggests his client IS guilty. But two sketches on this premise are not well-developed.
The power of intense teamwork to create a heated sexual atmosphere is a solid idea (a surgical team, and a fire brigade are the chosen examples), but again, the setups are weak and the orgiastic outcome is mundane.
Not everything is “according to theme” here. Tawney (who should have been SNL’s choice for its newest African-American cast member) has a showstopping, rapidfire rant in which she riffs on the benefits of healthy eating. She also plays the mom of a white-as-chalk son (boyish, toothpick thin, wildly animated John Hartman), who can’t possibly live up to stereotypes.
Relationship sketches, about a church-going mom and fantasizing son, or shrill “feminists” raging against loser men, feel tired. A blind date between two gay men who have (almost) nothing in common does have a very funny sexual punchline. Other sketches deal with the repetitive rants against Obamacare and politicians’ hypocritical sex habits.
The cast, which also includes Chelsea Devantez and Emily Walker, was coached by Jessica Tong, the wonderful dancer from Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, with whom Second City will be collaborating next season.