If you take the hilarious new Second City revue as a cultural barometer,the strained candidacy of an unloved Hillary Rodham Clinton is being slowlycrushed by a charming rival with a Kenyan daddy and a chameleonic ability tobe black, white, Jewish, Latino, gay or, in a pinch, a soccer mom. Alldepending on who is doing the projecting.
Obama as malleable slate for liberal hopes and dreams is the uber text of"Between Barack and a Hard Place," the funniest mainstage show on Wells Streetin several years. And in one drop-dead-funny sketch late in the show, thatleaves a frustrated Hillary (as played with buttoned-down veracity by thepitch-perfectly geeky Molly Erdman) stuck desperately learning how to beloved. As Erdman plays Hillary, her sincere, recognizable attempt to forge alikable laugh comes out mostly as a series of demonic gurgles.
Far more than in recent years, the show is suffused with political themes-- including a mournful Erdman love ballad titled "Where Was This Al GoreBefore?" that manages a delicious rhyme between "Tipper" and "zipper." "If thePolar Icecaps Melt," Erdman goes on, warming to her once-soporific,now-rehabilitated idol, "I'll Share My Raft With You."
You could attribute the rise in sharply topical material to the power ofthe likes of Jon Stewart and (ex-Second Citizen) Stephen Colbert, who do mostof their hiring on Wells Street. Not coincidentally, every hopeful male inthis show sports a shiny shirt, a striped tie and a short, politico-stylehaircut. If the best ticket out of Second City to national fame used to beeither outrageous edge in the John Belushi or Chris Farley mold, or irony inthe Bill Murray, it's now more a matter of looking like a fake news anchor ora slick Georgetown striver. That's the market, and Second City surely hasadjusted.
But in all fairness, this show has plenty of nods to the old days. Theacerbic, caustic Joe Canale, who had a dazzling, standout show on openingnight, has the single funniest routine involving a live audio tour of the ArtInstitute of Chicago. It's dispensed live from behind a door by a South SideChicagaw character inclined to confuse Reuben sandwiches with the Rubenesque,and unimpressed by one Mon-ETTE picture of a stack of wheat at 9, followed bya picture of another stack of wheat at, "like, 9:30." This killer skit,performed by Canale and the promising Brad Morris, owes something to "DaBears" but has a far more complex cultural perspective.
The short "blackouts" are uncommonly good here too. There's one aboutAttention Surplus Disorder (kid, still, smiling). And early in the show, awife looking for her husband is told by an Indian character in her living roomthat hubby is playing cards elsewhere, having outsourced the evening. "Can youfix my computer?" she replies.
"Between Barack and a Hard Place"
When: Open run
Where: Second City, 1616 N. Wells St.
Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Tickets: $19-$24 at 312-337-3992
firstname.lastname@example.orgCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times