Saturday, September 28, 2013

Second City brings laughs and social issues to the Page

By Paul Schmitt
Arts & Entertainment Editor

For a performance that began with a montage of pelvic thrusts, Second City’s “Happily Ever Laughter” quickly developed into comedy both clever and politically charged.

The Chicago-based improvisational comedy group performed a series of pre-written sketches, improvisational games, and musical numbers involving its crew of just five of the numerous Second City comedians on Sept. 5, in the Page Theatre at Saint Mary’s University.

The set was notably bare, containing only a few black chairs, which is a common element of the improvisational genre, designed to provide as neutral of a comedic atmosphere as possible.

“The bareness of the stage opened up creativity and imagination that made room for a lot of different humorous opportunities,” said SMU freshman Amanda Baker.

While some sketches, such as one mocking on-air guests of public radio stations, were received very well by the audience, several others that doubled as social commentary pieces provoked little more than a few nervous laughs and awkward silences. 

Topics such as race, religion, and same-sex marriage were brought up light-heartedly in the performance, but tension filled the air on several occasions. The group was clearly aware of the edginess of their comedy, however, and was able to maintain a friendly level of banter with the crowd, regardless of its reaction. 

Just before intermission, crowd interaction reached a peak in which one of the comedians, Kellen Alexander, played a gay man anxious about bringing his boyfriend home to meet his parents. Wishing to show straight men what a gay wedding is like in order to dissuade discrimination, Alexander pulled a man at random from the audience to act as his boyfriend for the remainder of the sketch. The act required him to answer questions about the beginnings of their fictional relationship and participate in a musical number, all to riotous audience laughter.

“They’ve no doubt worked for a huge variety of audiences,” said Augustine Esterhammer-Fic, a senior at SMU. “They’re able to present their social values in a humorous way that doesn’t devalue the argument or make people feel attacked.”

The second act of the show ended on a largely optimistic note, with the entire cast performing a song that listed both things their children would never get to do due to changes in technology and culture, and things that they would have the ability to do because of the increasing levels of tolerance and acceptance in modern society.

Citing legal obligations to perform an encore set, the troupe returned to the stage for an extra fifteen minutes, though the audience members’ reactions suggested waning interest as the night wore on.

Regardless, the lobby murmurings after the show suggested an overall impressed audience who was thankful for the opportunity to see a world-class comedy group perform at the Page Theatre.

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