Second City’s ‘Heaven’ misses the mark
BY HEDY WEISS Theater Criticfirstname.lastname@example.org April 11, 2011 4:27PM
‘South Sideof Heaven’
◆ Open run
◆ The Second City, 1616 N. Wells
◆ (312) 337-3992; secondcity.com
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Strange, strained, unhealthy, doomed. Those are some of the descriptors that came to mind after watching “South Side of Heaven,” the new Second City mainstage show about fate directed by Billy Bungeroth.
The revue (with good musical direction by Julie B. Nichols) begins with a suggestion of the fate of President Obama (played by Sam Richardson, cigarette in mouth), whose campaign cries for change were fated by the fact that he inherited “a s--- sandwich,” along with vocal opponents like the young, jobless Republican (Holly Laurent), who wants him to “go back to Zaire.”
Then it is on to the abiding sense that we are living in a world where we no longer can control our destiny. Even the nature of our potential mates is up for grabs.
The dysfunctional is captured in a multitude of sketches — from a teenage girl (Katie Rich) questioning an older woman (Laurent) about a relationship breakup during which we learn both women know far too much about pharmaceuticals, to a throwaway solo by Tim Robinson (the show’s consistent freak/nerd) in an act of orgasmic burrito eating.
Race is dealt with predictably as four guys (Edgar Blackman, Timothy Edward Mason, Robinson and Richardson) gather to watch a Cubs-Sox game. Mayor Daley’s fate, nailed by a failed 2016 Olympics bid, is followed by a bizarre move offstage to kiss audience members’ heads.
Two women at a casino are joined by an odd guy hooked up to an oxygen machine and puffing on a cigarette, only to realize they may have been visited by God. A tough black mother subtly emasculates her son, who is ridiculed at a private school for his Payless shoes. A carriage driver beats his abuse-fated horse as he drives two tourists around Chicago. And airline passengers cope with crash fears as a drunk captain and swishy flight attendants do little to assuage fear.
Encounters with those who have caused psychic scars are scattered throughout, with Laurent as the nerdy, butt-scratching Regina. In an attempt at healing, Blackmon (the most graceful, understated, charismatic member of this ensemble) is the terrifically wound-up preacher.
The show ends much as it begins, with Richardson as Obama doing a near-naked interpretive dance. You might wish you were fated to the next “better” world.