April 2, 2014

Second City's DEPRAVED NEW WORLD - Review

"The world is so full of voices,
why are so many in my head?"
I'm always enthusiastic about attending a Second City revue, so being invited to attend a performance was not a tough decision. When I received a complimentary pass for Depraved New World (102nd in a series - collect them all!), it was simply a matter of clearing my evening....and I'm glad I did. Depraved New World is not only funny, but is surprisingly inventive in extremely subtle ways.

Much of the revue's focus (as "spoiled" in the introductory song) is about the split between what we're thinking and how we're acting....and the first sketch plays out the obvious. (People in an office discussed upcoming birthdays, and cast members announce "hidden" thoughts accompanied by dramatic changes in lighting). But from there, the material grows increasingly riskier...and comfortable in taking those risks. Lines of dialogue like
"That's a great tan!"
"No, actually, I'm black"
might easily have been overplayed, but the troupe has such ease with the material, it never comes across as forced or overt.

(In fact, my favorite sketch of the evening centers around the phrase "firefighter orgy"...and I'm willing to risk ending up high in Google search ranking around the phrase "firefighter orgy".)

From women encouraging their peers to "don't date a douche" to men embracing their self-esteem; from youthful escapades around YouTube and horses, Depraved New World provides moments of genuine surprise. Even during the "audience participation"-driven second half, troupe members manage to weave comic gold. Out of one audience member responded "pizza" when asked what they ate, troupe member Tawny Newsome provided rapid-fire monologue which had a perfectly scripted feel without any blank space. As another audience member provided minimal cues, both Mike Kosinski and Chelsea Devantez managed to wring further laughs for an admittedly tough situation. If improvisation is the creation of moments from random ideas, the Depraved New World troupe manages to create solid moments of humor and make it look effortless.

What makes the production especially noteworthy is that there is an inventiveness in timing with both lighting and music. Dramatic lighting cues help foster a strong sense of pace - in fact, one sketch involves sudden stop-starts with lighting that could have easily failed, yet managed to highlight the humor of the piece. Even sound and music play a key role - two of the sketches are silent, focusing more on music, dance and performance; a third (with Ms. Newsome and Steve Waltien) deftly mixes live performance and lip sync in a perfectly-timed meditation on relationships. Much like the troupe, the overall production is a high performer, and never misses its mark.

Depraved New World is more than just another Second City revue - it's an imaginative, inventive exploration around the dichotomy between our inner and outer lives. It's also a must-see experience.
Trust me - it's that good.

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