Politics are exhausting, but inevitable and important. People are exhausted, but continue to seek normalcy via social interactions. The Second City’s 110th mainstage show’s bifurcated title reflects those two realities: Do The Right Thing, But No Worries If Not.
The heightened fight-or-flight instincts that now inhabit our daily routines are expressed in this frenetic new revue, which is funny, wistful and slightly disconnected in that self-preservation way. The six-member ensemble is (finally) more diverse, and integrates more audience interaction during the scripted pieces. The two-hour performance is framed by the old Sesame Street pinball machine counting song, a throwback to a simpler time, and perhaps a reminder to count our blessings for what remains of American rights and sanity.
That funky ’70s tune (performed by the Pointer Sisters) also introduces the cast Mouseketeer-style: Andy Bolduc, E.J. Cameron, non-binary Kiley Fitzgerald, Claire McFadden, Julia Morales, and Evan Mills, who states that he’s “ethnically ambiguous to the untrained eye” (and knows how to werk a fan, especially as a dilophosaurus), under director Jen Ellison and musical director Jeff Bouthiette.
The show explores racial divisions from the get-go, with Cameron and Morales running the BLACKbuster video store, providing corollaries between white movie classics and their African-American cousins, from the obvious Wiz instead of The Wizard of Oz, to New Jack City for The Godfather, Creed for Rocky, and Barbershop for Edward Scissorhands. They question The Color Purple, with its all-Black cast but white director, noting “something ain’t right.”
Mills introduces himself as a gay Filipino, rare like a MCU Infinity Stone, and shares a song quizzing the audience about shared Chicago experiences and life during these difficult days. The show is also peppered with a ringing bell, the “new choice” improv game where the players have to come up with another fresh idea right after the first is said. The conceit is a comedy standard, but takes on more meaning in a time when we wish we also had do-overs, a multiverse of sorts. It also facilitates welcome interaction among other humans.
The Riverdale Bayside Euphoria High School experience is deconstructed, as are the intricate intimacies between friends becoming lovers during a car ride home. An outing to the insult-restaurant Dick’s Last Resort reveals a politically correct preferred pronouns exchange, and the accurate declaration that “Facebook is a terrorist network.” An in vivo “vibe check” is performed on twin fetuses, aka “BOGO babies.” The Irish Goodbye is a blackout in all senses of the word. The first act ends with another school sketch, this time with the cast incorporating the audience into their detention space for illegal note-passing.
Office code-switching breaks down at the top of act two. Then McFadden becomes a delightful Edith Piaf-like, cabaret-singing earthworm celebrating that life is actually good, including all the sauces available, from tzatziki to vindaloo to sriracha (sadly heading for a shortage). A Midwestern Catholic couple take personal family questions from the audience, then others take a bird walk.
The show doesn’t mention current politics much, nor the pandemic aftermath, except during the Beaver Day School sketch, where the kids spent most of lockdown perfecting TikTok dances instead of book learning. A support group for unpopular opinions asserts that 1) dogs are just OK; 2) people with nut allergies are just faking it; and 3) men’s soccer is a scam created by crisis actors. There’s a dinosaur gynecologist, a dinocologist, blackout, and a bottomless mimosa brunch that you will never unsee.
Overall, the new revue is zippy but perhaps somewhat disconnected because folks don’t know what or how to feel any more with the ongoing onslaught of trauma. Life already bumps us from tentative highs to extreme lows on the daily. Our nervous systems are shot, and this show attempts a cortisol correction, now that we are at least temporarily together again.
Do The Right Thing, No Worries If Not runs at the Second City, 1616 N. Wells, Tuesdays-Thursdays at 8pm, Fridays-Saturday at 7pm and 10pm, and Sundays at 7pm. Tickets are $29-87, and available at 312-337-3992.
For more information on this and other productions, see www.theatreinchicago.com.
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