Send in the clowns
By Hedy Weiss Theater Criticemail@example.com June 23, 2013 1:52PM
Second City e.t.c.’s “A Clown Car Named Desire” features Brooke Breit (from left), Chris Witaske, Mike Kosinski, Michael Lehrer, Punam Patel and Carisa Barreca. | Photo by Todd Rosenberg
‘A CLOWN CAR
When: Open run
Where: The Second City e.t.c., 1608 N. Wells
Info: (312) 337-3992; www.Second City.com
Run time: 1 hour and 45 minutes, with one intermission
Updated: July 25, 2013 6:27AM
Reality may rarely live up to your finest fantasies. But beware: After spinning your fantasies you might very well wish for a return to reality. Just ask Tennessee Williams. Or take a note from Oprah and “The Secret,” that troubling self-help book she hawked, which promulgated the notion that if you visualize what you want you will get it.
Better yet, hop aboard “A Clown Car Named Desire,” the surrealistically-tinged new revue at The Second City e.t.c., zestily directed by Ryan Bernier, with musical direction by pianist Alex Kliner. From there you can track how the desires driving the human animal can run amok.
The show starts with a timely nod to gay-straight unease. A guy (tall, beanpole-thin, rubbery-legged Mike Kosinski) comes to pick up his date for the high school prom. With flower box in hand, he first encounters his date’s obnoxious macho brother (a wildly intense Chris Witaske), and the two move through all the uncomfortable cliches before the younger brother (Michael Lehrer) arrives, gets his boutonniere, and sweet hugs are exchanged all around.
Then it’s off to the office where, at a meeting of execs called to deal with reversing sinking profits, a woman just back from maternity leave (Brooke Breit) discloses far too much information about her breast-feeding requirements while her pumping machine goes off at full roar.
In one of the funniest sketches, three American Apparel sales clerks (Breit, Kosinski and Witaske, all spot-on), try to outdo each other in their “creative” alternative lifestyles. Each is a case of arrested development, as one boasts of being a “Freegan” (eating only from dumpsters), another riffs on his fashion innovations, and another talks about buying Tom’s shoes (the trendy charity-connected brand that supplies shoes to poor Third World kids).
In the sketch based on “The Secret,” a woman (Breit, whose brilliant impersonation of a catfish should become an instant classic) sits in a bar for hours waiting for her date. As it turns out, she has created him on Facebook. What she misses is that her perfectly nice waiter (Witaske) is interested in her.
The state of health care in this country is deftly addressed as a woman lacking insurance (sparkling Carisa Barreca), comes to a Walgreen’s clinic for a “morning after pill.” There she encounters a half-mad mock doctor (a zany Lehrer) more interested in getting her to sign up for a Rewards card.
Along the way, a guy (Kosinski) returns to his old neighborhood to shoot basketball with a childhood friend (Punam Patel). She is still attracted to him but is in an arrested state of boyishly macho underdevelopment, while he has a pretty, high-achieving fiance (Barreca).
Along the way there is the familiar “armed up” gun rights American, and a quirky laundry room encounter between two guys that evolves into an elaborate Cirque du Soleil sendup.
The improv sequences include a game show format in which a couple from the audience is debriefed about their first date, and a riff on “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Send in the clowns (and the mad doctors).