Monday, November 06, 2017

Revue Review: Second City's Talent-Rich 'Dream Freaks Fall From Space' Amuses, To An Extent

Theater / Comedy / Improv Review

Dream Freaks Fall From Space
106th Mainstage Revue
The Second City, Chicago
Thru May 31

I think a lot of people think a lot of things are a lot funnier than I do.

I mean, I don’t want to believe that I’m a humorless grump, and I actually think laughing often is vital to living in today’s world.

Without suggesting that I’m particularly funny, I offer up puns, witticisms and wisecracks pretty much on a daily basis.

But while realizing that great comedy should spark new insights as much as loud guffaws, I very rarely LOL at anything.

I almost never watch Saturday Night Live these days, as I haven't found it to be great for years, save some occasional political impersonations.

Neither have many if any Mainstream American comedy movies of recent vintage much tickled my funny bone, and though I've seen and enjoyed many legendary stand-up comedians, very few have kept me constantly in stitches.

The fact that Steven Wright still consistently does may suggest that I'm drawn to a more unique type of comedian, but I've generally laughed more at humorous plays--including the recent The Legend of Georgia McBride and the ongoing Yasmina's Necklace--than at comedians or improv/sketch shows.

Nonetheless, I still believe comedy should be part of my live entertainment diet, but it has candidly been a rather small one.

So I was delighted to be invited to The Second City to review their 106th Mainstage Revue, titled Dream Freaks Fall From Space.

Which, in not knowing what that title is meant to reference, may reiterate that I could well be at fault for not loving the show, though I did enjoy much of the material, the six cast members and the overall experience.

In being admiringly deferential in lieu of profusely laudatory, I can perceive overdoing the Trump bashing, including in a revue's title, can come off as far too obvious and even trite.

Although...Tyler Davis' song insisting a potential paramour not have voted for the Donald, or must now express regret for that decision, was one of the show's clear highlights.

Each of the other writer/performers, adorned in white jumpsuits, had plenty of fine moments as well, whether in group sketches, smaller scenes or solo bits.

An oddly but enjoyably anachronistic Where's Waldo piece, featuring the consistently good Nate Varrone as the hard-to-find, cap-wearing cartoon figure, definitely made me laugh, and I found Tien Tran's song speculating that "Maybe your baby is gay" both amusing and astute.

There was a considerable amount of live music performed by the talented cast--also including Ryan Asher, Kelsey Kinney (the only veteran from a past mainstage revue) and Jeffrey Murdoch--and I also enjoyed a bit featuring the lip syncing of famed songs pertinent to particular characters, only to have others point out that the lyrics incorrectly matched the memories.

So certainly there were plenty of inspired moments over 2 hours of stage time, and not only isn't comedy universal-- Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune loved this revue--even for the most talented practitioners in the realms of sketch & improv, it's gotta be daunting to work in the shadows of Belushi, Ackroyd, Murray, Candy, Myers, Farley, Fey, Colbert, Carrell, etc., all still hanging around on the famed venue's walls.

While I have to be honest in my assessment that it was a fun night with appreciable efforts and some fine entertainment but well short of fantastic--and a friend alongside, who has taken improv classes and performed in various shows, neither was overly enthused--I certainly wouldn't dissuade anyone from taking in this show.

I hadn't been to The Second City for 10 years, which really has been too long, and I think this was only the second mainstage revue I've ever seen.

So I don't have much to compare it to, nor a good gauge for measuring the level of delight & insight provided vs. fair expectations.

I can easily imagine returning--perhaps for more of an improv show than a mostly pre-written revue--and perceive Second City to be one of Chicago's best options for date night.

Yet while I liked the experience, the performers and the beignets I ordered during Dream Freaks Fall From Space, the truth is I just didn't fall in love.

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