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Everything Works Perfectly in 'STUDS TERKEL'S NOT WORKING'

Whites and Blacks.
Gays and straights.
Men and women.
Republican and Democrats.
Gentiles and Jews.
City-dwellers and suburbanites.
Luckily, no one is spared in the Second City e.t.c.'s hysterical new review, STUD TERKEL'S NOT WORKING.  (well, the Gentiles and Jews come off pretty unscathed, but where's the fun in that?)
 
Terkel -who passed away in October 2008- was a historian, essayist, novelist, and source of musical inspiration (1978's relative flop, WORKING, based on his book).  His literary voice was integral in documenting what it was like to live and survive in America's working class, whether as a hockey player, homemaker, or gas meter reader (remember those?).  Specifically, Terkel's work focused on that city of big shoulders and even bigger bellies.  A city intertwined in political infamy, cultural allegiances, and a world-renowned improvisational sketch troupe.
 
NOT WORKING's 2-hour review is in the comical hands of Christina Anthony, Amanda Blake Davis, Tom Flanigan, Timothy Edward Mason, Beth Melewski, and Andy St. Clair.  Each deserve praise, for there's nary a weak link amongst the six skilled performers/writers/singers/musicians/comedy chameleons.  Director Matt Hovde, along with musical director Michael Descoteaux, have constructed a lightening fast evening of cohesive sketches, songs, bits, and yuckity yuckyuck one-liners based around what it's like to live in Chicago today.  From the moment you are asked to turn off you cellphone (and chances are you will NOT forget to do so), you're on a delightfully out-of-control Red Line ride with Hovde at the helm.

With a new president in the White House, economic turmoil ravishing the country, and a state drenched in corruption, NOT WORKING's cast offers a wide array of social commentary.  From a gay couple trying to make ends meet in Andersonville (executed poignantly by St. Clair and Mason), to a "Choose Your Own Adventure"-style mob caper (rich in bluesy accompaniment), to a CPS teacher (the bubbly and strong-voiced Davis) likening world events to a Jonas Brothers concert.  What makes each performer shine is their uncanny ability to act and act well.  We've all seen it before in countless movie and improv bits: the awkward end to a terrible first date.  Yet, what the standout Melewski and St. Clair manage to produce is a fresh, and maybe a little odd, wave of honest comedic performance.  And just when you think you know who the designated "straight man" or "goofy girl" of the troupe is, NOT WORKING's ensemble throws you for a loop, thankfully never falling into a pattern of predictability.
 
Whether you're from Chicago, Naperville, the South Side, or the flat lands of Iowa (guard your radishes!), The Second City e.t.c.'s 33rd review is a beyond-enjoyable homage to not only Terkel's work, but to a city second to none.
 
Studs Terkel'S NOT WORKING is open now at The Second City e.t.c.'s Theatre, 1608 North Wells Street, 2nd Floor at Piper's Alley.  Tickets are available by phone at 312-337-3992 or online at www.secondcity.com.
 
PHOTO CREDIT: Bob Knuth


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From This Author William Panek