BWW Reviews: Second City Does Dallas Laden with Zingers



It stands to reason that high levels of self-confidence give you a thicker skin. Perhaps this is why the biggest theater in Dallas opens their season with self-commissioned mocking. Dallasites have pretty thick skin.

Things you should know about me before we begin: I work at Klyde Warren Park (you know, the deck park over Woodall Rogers Freeway); I just willingly moved back to Dallas from New York City; I am in my 20's.

The first two things might explain why I found SECOND CITY DOES DALLAS – the collaboration between Chicago's infamous comedy troupe and Dallas Theater Center – to be more than mildly amusing. And the final personal fact, might admittedly explain why I didn't find the JFK jokes as offensive as my critical counterparts– in fact, the sketch about how to capitalize on the 50th assassination anniversary was one of the more original bits in the entire 2 hour set.

When I was living in New York City I heard more than a few snide comments about Dallas – the one I took most offense to being, "Well, I just love Austin." Usually, my follow-up question was, "Well, have you been to Dallas?" Often it was an afternoon visit they took to the Sixth Floor Museum, on their way to Austin or San Antonio (you know, to see the Alamo).

It's true that screaming "Tora! Tora! Tora!" still finds few laughs and that attending the comedy show on September 11 didn't ease tension between the JFK jokes and the audience, but if you're going to roast Dallas – you can't avoid the only real "tourist" attraction in the city. And it's also not too far-fetched to expect Dallas governance to "take advantage" of the anniversary of an assassination - we are a city of entreprenuers, not historians. And the dicussion of how to remember this tragedy will be necessary - although the ideas suggested are extreme (bobbleheads, projecting blame on another city, etc.).

In preparation for this production, writers Brooke Breit and Ed Furman spent days in this city, interviewing locals and exploring the neighborhoods – where apparently they found suburban wastelands of chain restaurants, buildings filled with thriving businesses, parents dedicating parks to their 9-year-old sons and big hair. There isn't a joke in those clichés, I haven't heard before (although they did manage to forget Dirk Nowitski's adorable, but hilarious German accent). But that doesn't mean I won't laugh at their repetition.

At intermission, my Dad (who happened to be in town to be my date for the evening), looked at me and said, "Well, who's the most famous Dallas Cowboy?" The obvious response being Jerry Jones. Oh, and the cheerleaders. And lo and behold, what should open the second act but a sketch about the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders?

The sheer entertainment of having DTC Company Member Liz Mikel strut her stuff one scene and play a blow-up doll the next offers enough reason to attend. Surround her with the superb comedic skills of Second City company members, Frank Caeti, Amanda Blake Davis, Martin Garcia, Scott Morehead and John Sabine – and the cards are in the show's favor.

Each sketch was laden with zingers, some funnier than others – like when Mikel appears at the end of the sketch about making Dallas the capital of Texas to ask one simple question – "Does anybody care about Fair Park?" Another standout sketch poked fun at commercizliation of public space in which a Dallas Symphony Orchestra concert funded by Texas Instruments was played on calculators.

It's difficult to allow outsiders to make fun of your hometown – perhaps more difficult when only about half of the jokes ring fresh to a city filled with self-loathing, yet outwardly arrogant people. But if you're willing to laugh at yourself, perhaps with an aid of a few whiskey- cokes from the stage level bar, SECOND CITY DOES DALLAS turns the eccentricities of our great city into well-delivered punchlines.

And in case you forgot, Dallas survived the recession, has the largest arts district in the country, and we just built a park over a freeway. That's pretty awesome, if you ask me (but then again, I do work at that park).

SECOND CITY DOES DALLAS runs through September 30.Tickets are available online or by phone (214) 880-0202.

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Lauren Smart Lauren Smart is a freelance journalist based in Dallas. She has covered the arts for magazines and newspapers throughout Texas, New York and South Carolina. She holds a master's in arts journalism from Syracuse University and bachelor degrees in journalism and creative writing from Southern Methodist University. An arts advocate and walking theater encyclopedia, she can usually be found poring over new plays or writing in a local coffee shop.

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