The 37th revue at the Second City's second stage borrows its title, approximately, from Tennessee Williams, whose ouevre is the engine behind a semi-improvised set piece in the new e.t.c. show's second act: Using a handful of audience suggestions, the six-member cast presents three scenes from a lesser-known entry in the great Southern playwright's résumé. But Williams's aesthetic also resonates through a number of other scenes in A Clown Car Named Desire, in suggestions that it's increasingly harder in modern life to separate real life from seriously fucked-up dreams—and the dream state might even be preferable.
The material is stacked with current, if not quite up-to-the-second, references. An early sketch about a woman returning to work from maternity leave and pumping her breast milk during a meeting contains a so-quick-you-could-miss-it reference to the workplace being Yahoo!—and thus placing the bit right at the heart of the months-old controversy over CEO Marissa Mayer's changes to that company's work-from-home policy. A new take on the MTV show Catfish is cute but several months behind SNL, and a gun-nut monologue about The Walking Dead and Juggalos, while delivered with verve by Michael Lehrer, walks well-covered ground.
Clown Car is at its best when it puts absurd new bents on familiar set-ups, as in the opening scene, when a doofusy dude-bro (Chris Witaske, an expert projector of anxiously defensive butch energy) answers the door to find his little brother's high-school prom date is also a dude (gangly awkwardmeister Mike Kosinski), and both try to adjust accordingly. (This sketch also sets up a biting recurring bit about the downmarket grocery store Aldi.)
The show's best piece, to my mind, is one that also features Witaske and Kosinski along with the deliciously dry Brooke Breit in an extended sequence as American Apparel retail employees. As the trio, decked out in dead-on exaggerations of hipster-dumpster chic, casually lunge into the ’70s-porno-style poses that mark the clothing company's skeevy ad campaigns while arguing over who's most authentically-slash-ironically up to date, I pretty much lost my shit. That this sketch included maybe the most specific reference to my own neighborhood, when one of the three tossed off a call-out to the block of Belmont surrounding the Red Line station as "the Frozen Yogurt District," didn't hurt.