Second City revue smartly shows how we sink or swim together
By Hedy Weiss firstname.lastname@example.org June 29, 2012 12:56AM
The Second City e.t.c.production of "We're All in This Room Together" features (clockwise, from left) Andel Sudik, Aidy Bryant, Mike Kosinski, Chris Witaske, Tawny Newsome and Michael Lehrer | Photo by Dave Rentauskas
‘WE’RE ALL IN THIS ROOM TOGETHER’
When: Open run
Where: The Second City, e.t.c., 1608 N. Wells
Info: (312) 337-3992;
Updated: August 1, 2012 6:05AM
The title of The Second City e.t.c.’s fast-moving, expertly performed, downright charming new revue is “We’re All in This Room Together,” and it can be interpreted in many ways. But given that I arrived at the show’s Thursday night opening after spending a long day in frustrating combat with a new Android device, I happily embraced its most immediate meaning.
As its cast of six note in their almost rueful opening sequence, the theater is one of the very last places on Earth where (at least most of us) agree to turn off our electronic devices, push the onslaught of virtual existence into the wings, and agree, for better or for worse, to engage in some genuine living, breathing, face-to-face interaction.
The revue’s title also calls to mind many other notions: That in a democracy we really do sink or swim together, just as we do in families, romantic relationships, marriages, friendships, the workplace and even at the checkout counter of a Whole Foods store. As most Second City sketches tend to remind us, we are social animals who often are in a state of high anxiety.
The familiar theme of people trying to get picked up in bars gets a fresh spin here as two women (the white Andel Sudik, and the black Tawny Newsome) banter about what is and is not appropriate to talk about when it comes to race. Another sketch suggests how too much alcohol can make for some very bad marionette-like behavior and odd bedfellows. Nothing new there, of course, but in this show, under the fleet direction of Ryan Bernier, it’s all cleverly imagined and sharply executed.
In other scenes: A father (Mike Kosinski) brings his very screwed up daughter (Sudik) for an entrance interview at the University of Chicago Lab School, and suffice it to say it does not go well. A Freddy Krueger-like real estate agent (Michael Lehrer) shows a house to an eager couple (Chris Witaske and Newsome), and again, things go badly. A country western singer (Aidy Bryant) is backed by a band composed of her four ex-husbands (the three men in the cast, plus the fine musical director, Jesse Case), and you come to realize she is no “Dolly.” A man (Witaske) shows up at his 25th high school reunion and it turns into quite the freak show. A guy unlucky on the usual dating sites goes to church and sings hymns with a Christian girl, but is undone when he can’t tell the difference between “a beatitude” and “an attitude.”
In a classic exercise, a man and woman seated directly opposite each other test the reaction when they confess the very worst about themselves. A trio of women in vaudeville mode sing about the (still) sorry state of things in terms of “equal” pay and more. A short man (Lehrer) sings of the virtues of dating short men. And an awkward trio of fathers and daughters attend a dance in a sketch that is at once sweet, and just a little creepy.
The best bits about public matters include one that skewers the grotesque tabloidization of TV news and its obsession with sensationalized “breaking news” non-events that obscure the really important issues, while another sets up a contest showcasing the flip-flopping skills of two political candidates.
Fittingly for the theme at work here, two sketches involve audience participation. In one, a couple of eightysomething women head for a movie in the park and end up chatting up a storm with the strangers (us) they meet. The other culminates in a very cleverly finessed gay marriage.
Of course it is the six actors who truly sink or swim together in “the room (“the theater”) each night. And the ensemble gathered here are uniformly smart, versatile and fiercely interactive.