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BWW Reviews: SOUL BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? at The Second City e.t.c.

BroadwayWorld.com doesn't use a star or letter grading system when our reviews are published. Yet, after last night's beyond stellar performance of The Second City e.t.c.'s newest revue, I'll willing to mix things up a touch:

Soul Brother, Where Art Thou?, written and performed by the untouchable Carisa Barreca, Lisa Beasley, Scott Morehead, Eddie Mujica, Tim Ryder, and Rashawn Nadine Scott, receives 5 out of 5 stars, an A+, and every other highest-ranked superlative you can imagine.

It's simply that good. Soul Brother is geared up, pissed off, and ready to discuss race, education, sex trafficking, and sexual inequality in and around Chicago. Immensely refreshing stuff.

Under the dutiful direction of Anthony LeBlanc, Soul Brother excels throughout its proceedings with unmatched honesty, speed, truth, precision, and heart. In and around Bob Knuth's sleekly designed set, aided by Kyle Anderson's ultra-hip transitional lighting & Greg Mulvey's striking video design, the 6 performers turn both their emotional & contextual weight on a dime. For as soon as you're done giggling at Morehead's lonely yet wise-beyond-his-years teenager jauntily Dance Dance Revolution-ing with his mother's new boyfriend, you're encounting its poignant denouement. Wisely & shrewdly enough, certain sketches (like a 9/11 "Where were you?" group piece or startlingly raw silent movie) don't have a 'punch-line' or hysterical button to cap the moment, letting the overall importance of the given piece speak for itself. Or sing for itself, given Scott's emotionally raw and important "Risk" atop musical director Alex Kliner's piano.

The cast's physical traits - tall, short, white, black, male, female - are called out to dynamic effect (Ryder and Mujica are equal parts the same & different man). Yet, with sketches where a sassy Greek chorus delves into Barreca's first date insecurities or a teleportation device changes cast members into complete physical opposites, we are allowed insight into their secret yet somehow universal differences.

In an interactive sketch, Beasley and Scott portray older African-American men confronting the usually white audience at the e.t.c. Theatre. Not everyone in the audience will be on board with their honesty, but then again, perhaps we should. They and their fellow ensemble members are not simply talking about the issues throughout. Nope, Soul Brother subtly & slyly demands participation and reaction. And yes, the night remains painfully (and at times, brutally) funny.

And unlike the lovely duet between Barreca and Beasley where they promise they won't ugly-cry when it's time for one roommate to move out, my guest couldn't help but point out my ugly-tears during a shockingly poignant word-less interlude in Act 2. I don't want to give away its power, but yes she was correct: thanks to moving performances by Barreca, Mujica, Ryder, and a well-used prop, I was indeed spouting ugly-tears.
Bring some tissues, bring your rage (if you've been paying attention lately), prepare to laugh, and set your phone to vibrate (better yet, silencing is better) to enjoy Soul Brother, Where Art Thou? It's the smartest thing you'll experience in Chicago this Spring, or whenever this group's next revue opens.

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Tickets for Soul Brother, Where Art Thou? start at $23.00 and are available by phone at 312-337-3992 or online at www.SecondCity.com.

Photo by TODD ROSENBERG

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