Theatre Review: ‘Sex & The Second City’ at the Alliance

By Manning Harris
fmanningh@gmail.com

Second City, Chicago’s famed improv troupe, has once again invaded the Alliance Theatre’s Hertz Stage with “Sex and the Second City:  A Romantic Dot Comedy,” where it will run through December 18.

Last year’s review began wittily with an imitation of WABE-FM’s oh so cultured voice of Lois Reitzes; it was very funny and a great set-up for a very amusing evening.

This year’s theme of looking for love via the social media should work wonderfully, but somehow the sex-comedy sketches which comprise the evening are not terribly sexy or fall-on-the-floor funny; and this is what we expect from “the premier improvisation and sketch comedy theatre in the world,” as one of the actors says in the program.

They’re amusing, mind you (the sketches); and if you have a drink or two from one of the two bars available and arrive early enough to sit in one of the cabaret-style tables up front, you’ll likely have a very good time.  But if you sit cold sober in the regular theatre seats, you probably will not be overwhelmed.

Of course the likable actors (Angela Dawe, Ed Kross, Zach Muhn, Amy Roeder) labor in the shadow of Second City legends:  John Belushi, Tina Fey, Mike Myers, Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, to name a few. But that’s at once their blessing and their curse:  You can’t escape it—not with that “Second City” moniker on the marquee.

They also don’t get to use very much of their improvisational skills, which I feel could be considerable.  Ms. Roeder is entertaining and endearing with her lunging awkwardness, and all the actors have fun moments—just not enough of them.  They are kept from sparkling largely by the fairly mundane script—it just never takes off.

It’s a funny concept (an online dating service called ilove); it should work; but there’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip—especially in the theatre.

Jimmy Carlson directed; and Mr. Carlson, Kirk Hanley, and Maribeth Monroe adapted the script.

Hooking up—it’s quite a concept, isn’t it?  But, as happens to the best of us, sometimes it just doesn’t get up—to the level you would really like.  Isn’t that so, audience?  But kick back, get out of the house, and support live theatre.  These actors are working hard for the money—and sometimes they get on a real roll, even if the house is stacked against them.

For tickets and information, visit www.alliancetheatre.org.

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