BWW Reviews: Connecting With The Second City's DEPRAVED NEW WORLD
"I'm making a connection."
As a society-deemed 'millennial,' The Second City's 102nd revue, Depraved New World, hits all the right chords. Whether comical, emotional, or down-right beautifully honest, the six performers who wrote and star in the Second City's newest Main Stage incarnation know how the hit an audience where it counts: 50% heart and 50% brain.
There's a funny bone percentage in there somewhere, but one could argue heart and brain beat it out if one is paying attention.
Depraved's loose archetypal through line - those harmful self-destructive voices in our heads - leads cast members Chelsea Davantez, John Hartman, Mike Kosinski, Tawny Newsome, Emily Walker, and Steve Waltein down a path of connections, missed connections, and attempts to fit into a world which keeps reminding them, "You're too different. Give up." They don't, and more power to them. Therein lies Depraved's lesson, but there are definitely a large number of smart laughs in between the discoveries.
Depraved New World, shrewdly and meticulously (more on that soon) directed by Mick Napier, is a Second City Main Stage show which surprisingly and refreshingly changes emotional and performance-driven hands half way through the show. By intermission, I found myself chatting with my date about the joyous perfection of several of the performers. Perfection, but rather one-note. But by the end of the show when Newsome, Kosinski, and Devantez were able to showcase their spot on and word-a-minute improvisational skills, the true joy of Depraved's consciousness had emerged. Even during the show's final 2 minutes, I found myself praising the entire cast's ability make the audience listen and reflect on the central themes of modern connection.
Unlike several other Second City Main Stage and e.t.c. shows in recent memory, Depraved New World eliminates most of the Chicago references which easily can receive the easy laughs. Nope, this revue is fraught with non-location-specific sketches about dating foibles (what happens when a straight woman sets up her only two gay friends on a blind date) and a strangely isolated teen making love tip Youtube videos (a standout sketch for the ever-likable and charming Mr. Hartman).
Comedy in Chicago can be rather one-note (an element Hartman, Kosinski, and Waltein - with the wonderful Jesse Case on piano - expertly highlight in a musical number about being differently not so different), but Depraved does its best to challenge its audience to consider not only the wildly absurd (Walker's truth-speaking macaw illuminates Newsome to no end), but also focus on the emotionally honest (a pas de deux between Newsome and Kosinski - aided by Mike Tutaj's beautiful projection design - is surprisingly beautiful).
Napier's meticulous staging comes in the scenes' transition periods. There is fleeting but painstakingly specific transitional moment following a cult-based girl talk exchange between Devantez and Walker when Ms. Devantez rises from her chair, take one step, spins, and faces her exit point - only to have another performer strike the chair she was sitting on for an entirely different actor to use. Extremely quick and barely noticeable, but it's obvious than Napier, the cast, and the legacy behind them know exactly when they're doing.
And hey, there's a violin-driven homage to the late Cid Caesar. That's class.
Depraved New World is currently in production. Tickets start at $23.00 and are available by phone at 312-337-3992 or online at www.SecondCity.com. The show schedule is as follows: Tuesday - Thursday 8:00 p.m., Friday - Saturday 8:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m., Sunday 7:00 p.m.
Photo by: Todd Rosenberg