For those who aren’t familiar, The Second City is one of the most renowned improvisation troupes in the world, held in regard with the likes of The Groundlings and producing many SNL Alumi and well-known comedic geniuses such as Tina Fey, Gilda and John Belushi, to name a few. With theatres and schools in Chicago, Toronto, and Hollywood, the troupe brings improv to an astonishing level. Not only does Second City produce and write some of the funniest skits, but the performers usually cast a very wide net of knowledge, in order to accommodate even the most obscure of audience suggestions. Unfortunately, this didn’t really come into play when they performed at Wolf Trap. This is not to their discredit, but you would think that the DC audience would yield some higher level or depth to their suggestions, but I guess you have to go see them in Chicago or New York for that type of higher education. The only fault of the performers was the lack of trying to promote more obscure ideas from their audience. But shame on us for not shouting out anything more than random and mundane suggestions for them to work with!
Going along with the fault being ours, as the audience, the troupe did a nice job with their pre-written scenes and the skits that were created based on our suggestions. There were five performers, some more talented than others, but all funny. Two had a bit more versatility than the other three (I won’t name names because the troupe revolves). I couldn’t help but wonder if I was watching the next Steve Carell (another alumni) in action. I have seen touring companies and stationary runs of Second City before, but this was a little less lustrous than the previous shows I have seen. While they were good and funny, there were moments and skits of well, eh…the drunk audience members thoroughly enjoyed themselves and the participation moments were fun.
I guess that most of my beef was the lack of high-brow humor and the abundance of political skits, which took their place in the action. The previous shows that I have seen did incorporate topical humor, but the main focus was funny, and I didn’t feel that here, but I have never seen them perform in the DC area, so it may have been a choice for our benefit. Several times I thought that I could be watching an episode of “How I Met Your Mother” and would have laughed more out loud, instead of just being amused. The groups timing was terrific though and overall it was a fun night for sure. I would recommend this show to friends and even this specific group of performers, I just would explain that if they have seen Second City before, they may want to be the ones to shout out the higher level suggestions to add to the drama of an on-the-spot skit. Otherwise, they will be entertained, but slightly bored, if they want that smart laugh.
Overall Experience: B+, with a note that every show is different and I have seen A++ performances from Second City throughout the years!
Venue: A+, the barns are perfect for this type of show. Very accessible and cozy.
For the final performances at the Barns and the upcoming Filene Center season, go to www.wolftrap.org
For Second City’s Touring Company or for their Chicago, Toronto, and Hollywood performances or to take classes and learn the ins and outs of comedy and timing, go to www.secondcity.com