A markedly diverse sextet hits playful and piercing tones in the e.t.c.'s latest.
In an early musical interlude, Carisa Barreca, Lisa Beasley and Rashawn Nadine Scott, the three women of Soul Brother, Where Art Thou?, promise us a “journey through danger.” And the Second City e.t.c.’s 39th revue indeed goes to some admirably dangerous places, smartly addressing matters of racial tension, police accountability and human trafficking in some of the show’s more biting sketches. Early on, Scott and Tim Ryder help set the tone as performers in Disneyland’s "It’s a Small World" ride, cagily negotiating how to have conversations about issues like Ferguson in between putting on smiling peace-and-brotherhood faces for the passengers. (This sketch also contains one of my single favorite lines of the night, regarding cultivating multiethnic friend groups: “People aren’t Pokémon!”)
Not everything is so serious, of course. New cast member Scott Morehead stands out as a skeptical little terror putting his single mom’s date (the impossibly lanky Ryder) through the wringer, culminating in a Dance Dance Revolution face-off. Ryder, Morehead and Eddie Mujica are perfectly stupid as a trio of human popped collars in a golf-course bro-down.
Barreca, who so confidently rides the razor’s edge between bubbly and deranged, shines in a musical number whose refrain, “I will follow you,” slides from romantic promise to stalkerish vow. And a goofy teleportation sketch that involves the whole cast allows the actors to winningly poke fun at one another, with gentle jabs at Ryder’s long legs (“These seem unreasonable!”) or referring to Barreca’s platinum-blonde look as “’90s Gwen Stefani.” The terrifically precise, relatively wee Mujica gets described in Soul Brother as both “nightmarishly frail and ethnically ambiguous” and “like a fourth-grader who escaped from the field trip.”
Not every sketch lands, dangerous or not: A play on the way we tend to self-aggrandize in remembering tragedies like 9/11 goes for uncomfortable but doesn’t justify it with a payoff, and a riff on religious-freedom laws falls short of new insight; on the more innocuous side, Scott’s generic musical solo about dating fizzles. But these are minor failures of material, not performance; overall this strong cast brings plenty of soul to the stage.
Second City e.t.c. Written and performed by Carisa Barreca, Lisa Beasley, Scott Morehead, Eddie Mujica, Tim Ryder, Rashawn Nadine Scott. Directed by Anthony LeBlanc. Running time: 1hr 50mins; one intermission.
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What a disappointment. I've been to many Second City shows over the years and always enjoy them... until this one. The "Christian" jokes were tacky and I couldn't help but think they wouldn't be "funny" if they were targeting Muslims or Jews. I also don't think that Second City is in a position to take a political and moral stand on Planned Parenthood, which they did in a very bold way. The final line to a skit was something close to "if you support Planned Parenthood you can suck my ..." You can guess the ending. We walked out because we were both offended and disgusted. Hopefully the writers can find some more creative and humorous topics in the future.