BWW Reviews: Two-Hander Sketch Comedy, Anyone? DATING: ADULTS EMBRACING FAILURE Opens at the Royal George Theatre

By: Jun. 23, 2014
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Chicago's improv and sketch comedy scene is justifiably world-famous, and attracts young talents from across the country as surely as sugar attracts bees. Such institutions as The Second City, iO and the Annoyance Theatre train, entertain and inspire performers, writers and audiences with a variety of styles, venues and opportunities. Classes and shows abound, in semesters, segments and weekly installments. It's theater, and a little bit not. It's TV, but not yet. It's a cousin to stand-up, a sister to writers in solitary rooms, a tool for creation and storytelling in our hectic day and age. Think on your feet! And then write down the parts that resonate....

Two such writer-performers, New Yorker Josh Lanzet and Wisconsinite Lindy Voeltner, have been kicking around the Windy City improv scene for a couple of years now, each training at all three of the above-named facilities, and each taking a turn as a member of "Infinite Sundaes," Second City's musical improv house ensemble. (Yes, there is musical improv--SingProv--and yes, these places have house ensembles. Check 'em out!) Lanzet and Voeltner have taken their writing and performing skills, and focused them into the new sketch show called, "Dating: Adults Embracing Failure," which opened last Friday night in the intimate upstairs space at the imposing Royal George Theatre, across Halsted Street from the equally imposing Steppenwolf Theatre Company. It's just up the street from the North and Clybourn "L" stop, in swanky southwestern Lincoln Park, where couples are looking for something to do after (or maybe before) their deluxe dinner reservations. Or maybe they've been shopping at North and Sheffield.

Like many shows in the non-Equity sketch world, "Dating" is booked for only one night each week, in this case, Fridays at 8:00 pm. But, given the topic, that's the night to perform it! For five of the next six Fridays (not July 4th), the two writer-performers, under the direction of Second City Training Center faculty member Andy Eninger, will take you on a hilarious, 70-minute romp through the dating histories of eight different couples. In best black box tradition, there's not a stick of scenery or a significant prop in sight (I do remember chairs), but who cares? The emphasis is on the laughs, the clever writing, the occasionally tear, and the comic timing of this up-and-coming comic pair.

The tagline of the show's advertising is: "Every relationship fails until one doesn't. The trick is finding out which one that is." And yes, only one of the eight couples we meet persevere until the final blackout. But, from meet-cutes to move-ins, career pressures to personal quirks, there's a lot here that's solid and admirable. And hilarious! The opening night capacity crowd treated the duo like comedy rock stars, after an opening salvo of boundary-pushing one-liners and a few introductory scenes that made it clear what we were in for. And, for a pair who both insist they are currently single, it does make you wonder how much of this stuff is based on personal experience.

There's the couple who always order the same two take-out Chinese dishes, and revel in the metaphors of which one is eating the other's leftovers, and why. There are scenes of meeting at a coffee place, meeting on a park bench, the girl who always hits people in the face with her hair, people who try it long-distance, the girl who's sure her boyfriend is gay, the quirky elderly, etc. It's all very urban, very contemporary, very insightful and very, very funny.

Voeltner, all Midwestern openness, uses her big eyes and voice to flash, explode and land. Lanzet, a mixture of Eastern neuroses and Wall Street swagger, meets her energy with large doses of well-crafted character traits. It's a joy, if not a little bit exhausting, to see these two volley and parry, knowing they are speaking their own well-rehearsed lines with the joy of the young, the gifted, the taking flight, the soaring.

If you're looking for an easy, breezy night out, or one more thing to add to your list of weekend hotspots to hit up with your honey, you would enjoy "Dating: Adults Embracing Failure" at the Royal George Theatre. Josh Lanzet and Lindy Voeltner have wrought something very fine, indeed, and you will see yourself in their shoes, even as you realize you have neither the wit nor the courage to do what they are doing. I meant in the show, but I may have meant in real life, too....

"Dating: Adults Embracing Failure," written and performed by Josh Lanzet and Lindy Voeltner and directed by Andy Eninger, will play June 27, July 11, July 18, July 25 and August 1 at 8:00 pm, in the upstairs studio at the Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted Street in Chicago.