As everyone knows, I really enjoy improv comedy both as viewer and participant. (And never, ever ask me about Pepe. You honestly don't want to know) So when I was invited to the premiere of Second City ETC's production of Studs Terkel's Not Working, I immediately jumped at the chance. Of course, it was not like I had avoided attending at all this year.
(Coincidentally, if you want more information about Studs Terkel, you might as well check out the web site. Or read his book Working - it's a classic piece of literature, and it's also where the troupe got their title. There's even a graphic novel version! I'm here to help you read more about it)
But back to the show - one of the great advantages of Second City's ETC theater is that it's smaller, a little more intimate, and (at least, in my perception) a little more audience-friendly. Several sketches included a much greater audience participation component, and I rather like that. (Although my tendency is to shout more mundane suggestions like "typewriter" than, say, "dog-eared copy of The Beautiful And Damned with a bunch of notes written on page 67"). Not Working really builds on this - from the opening song (which goes from warning people to turn off cell phones to a more political turn) to the closer (which actually recaps an initial audience interaction, reminding us that going to Cubs games will help the recession), it's a potent reminder of the power of live performance.
Highlights? Well, it's hard to spoil a revue, especially an improv show, but I'd rather not do that. However, the cast - Christina Anthony, Amanda Blake Davis, Tom Flanigan, Timothy Edward Mason, Beth Melewski and Andy St. Clair - have assembled a strong, tight show with a decidedly Chicago-centric flair. (But not so much that out-of-towners won't get it). Sketches involve a variety of situations, dealing with the personal and political, including:
- A couple return from a date, and one is rather overeager;
- An open display of presidents, where you'll learn more about William Henry Harrison than any human being should;
- A bachelor party...with a twist;
- A conversation about a word that should be removed;
- Two men having a conversation on an airplane; and
- A hard-boiled detective story.
(Production photos by Bob Knuth)