BWW Review: Second City Skewers the Real O.C. in Improv Show (ends 4/11)
Laguna Beach, CA—There's a funny saying that's been going around for the past few years: "It's funny... 'cause it's true!" While some aspects of this particular show have been exaggerated for (relatively) full comic effect, THE SECOND CITY: CAN YOU BE MORE PACIFIC? (now playing at The Laguna Playhouse thru April 11) hilariously skewers the over-the-top personality types that have become infamously synonymous with the citizenry of Orange County: wealthy, egotistic, (predominantly) Republican, luxury-indulgent, overly nipped-and-tucked, and seemingly comfortable with life behind the so-called Orange Curtain.
Thanks to the fictional O.C. as well as the addictive scandaliciousness of The Real Housewives and MTV's Laguna Beach franchises, Orange County was put on the map as a breeding ground for privileged excess (oh, the drama!). While CAN YOU BE MORE PACIFIC? does touch on a few things specific to Laguna Beach life itself, they more or less point a funny, endearingly judgmental finger on the county as a whole that used to be the home of millions of orange groves before Walt came in up north, and the upwardly mobile staked their claim parts Southward. (Don't worry, the not-so-rich enclaves of Fullerton and Santa Ana are made fun of too).
The Chicago-based six-member troupe in this particular show—comprised of (in alphabetical order) Frank Caeti, Craig Cackowski, Molly Erdman, Brian Gallivan, Niki Lindgren, and Claudia Michelle Wallace—are not only amusing with wit, brashness and charm, they are also quite wonderful stage actors/singers (although, poor alto Wallace is not served consistently well by the collective troupe's song keys). This remarkable feat from comics is not too much of a bombshell considering their training ground produced some of the most well-known, well-trained stage and TV performers around. Everyone from Bill Murray, Rick Moranis and Dan Aykroyd, to Catharine O'Hara, Amy Sedaris, and Bonnie Hunt have honed their skills here, and almost every player on Saturday Night Live (including Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, arguably two of the funniest women today) got their start here.
Despite a few brief flat moments and clichéd references (O.C. Cougars? Really?), there are plenty of gems in this collection of sketches, everything from the curiously poignant (a nightmare scenario for the upwardly-conceited Caucasian: the Mexican population "reclaiming" California), the sweetly poetic (the office-chair ballet sequence is genius), to the strangely bizarre (a blow-up doll is, uh...played by one of the human players, but the result is a downright gut-buster). The Second City's take on O.C. life is surprisingly well-informed, if not blatantly acted out from the researched eyes of obvious tourists. The opening number, where individual patrons in a bar sing about being the last of a rare breed in the county (the last surgically-untouched female, the last gay man in Laguna, even the last orange tree in the county, etc.), are timely and thus, cleverly entertaining.
Some of the skits, however, felt very general in nature, as if its inclusion in the show is interchangeable within other locales. These vignettes could've worked in any number of other cities' shows—which was not necessarily a bad thing. Actually, some of the funnier moments in the show come from these non-O.C. specific parts, only because they're simply engaging and, at times, just downright silly.
As to not spoil any (more) punch-lines from the show, by all accounts, the two acts—comprised of varying lengths of sketches—are pretty funny; some, of course, more than others. But like any good sketch comedy, the best laughs are induced by the humor embedded in truth. In some instances, the audience provides much of the material (think TV's improv show Whose Line Is It Anyway?), and the six actors are quick on their toes and quite eager to please.
The central idea here is to let a few out-of-towners shine a light in the silly little things that make O.C. a unique place. Thanks to Marc Warzecha's direction of a script he co-wrote with Andy Cobb, and six brilliant improv hams, this "outsider's" look into life in the O.C. isn't so much a parody but a reverently humorous tribute.
Performances of THE SECOND CITY®: CAN YOU BE MORE PACIFIC? at The Laguna Playhouse continue through April 11, 2010.
Tuesday – Saturday evenings at 8:00 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:00 p.m.
Thursday matinees March 18 & April 1 at 2:00 p.m.
Sunday evenings March 21, March 28 & April 11 at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets to any performance are available by purchasing tickets in person or by calling the box office at (949) 497-ARTS  (or group sales, dial ext. 229) or by visiting their web site at www.lagunaplayhouse.com. The Laguna Playhouse is located at 606 Laguna Canyon Road in Laguna Beach, CA.