The Second City Dysfunctional Holiday Revue sure puts the big fat D for disappointment in dysfunctional. I hated improvisation acting classes in college with a nauseating passion. I felt the song “Nothing” from A Chorus Line summed it up pretty well when it first came out (yes, I went to college back then – I was precocious). I’ve taught “improv” in beginner acting classes and understand what it can offer in expanding actors’ skills. Still, I don’t normally seek out the late night “improv” shows that dot the late night Dallas landscape. A good book in bed holds more appeal. But when the chance to see the MASTERS of improvisation from the famed Second City in their holiday show came along, I pricked my ears. These folks have been at it for fifty years, tour everywhere and focus an entire school on improvisation. Ought to be a stimulating, enjoyable experience. Right?
Wrong. Talk about Improv for the Masses. Do these guys water down their shows for the dumb, uncultured parts of the US? Here’s what the promo says (we got no programs, so I can’t even provide performer names or comment on bios):
“Performing social and political satire in two 45-minute acts of scripted scenes, music, and improvisation, The Second City Touring Company is always original, daring, and hilarious. Their alumni list is a veritable “Who’s Who” of comedy including Peter Boyle, Bill Murray, John & Jim Belushi, Mike Myers, Steve Carell, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, George Wendt, Ryan Stiles, Tina Fey, Rachel Dratch, Horatio Sanz, Tim Meadows, Joan Rivers, John Candy, Bonnie Hunt, Stephen Colbert, Rick Moranis, Jack McBrayer, Jason Sudeikis and so many more.
Dysfunctional Holiday Revue: When the Nutcracker just won’t cut it, The Second City’s Dysfunctional Holiday Revue comes to the rescue. This fast-paced interactive show, filled with style and wit, is the perfect alternative to the same old tired holiday performances. From holiday film classics to family gatherings to improvised Christmas carols, this bright, funny and completely original show will keep audiences rolling in the aisles from Thanksgiving to New Year’s.”
What first catches my attention here are the words “social and political satire”. Really? It seemed mostly like drunk fraternity and/or inane sitcom humor, with a hint of homophobia and some sexism tossed in. Misogyny is always so good for laughs. They riffed at length on “booty hole”, which grew out of one of their extended improv bits. It was a high point. The audience seemed to find it simply hilarious.
My companion, a Dallas theatre professional, and I sat in stony silence for the most part, enduring. Two forty five minute sets felt each an hour long. And the encore dragged so…. I’m sure the group of three men and two women actors (whoever they are) are skilled, trained performers, making a living wage taking their craft to the masses. I did note glimmers of talent and skill but in a very conventional, watered down performance. What a disappointment. People beside us kept laughing, maybe due to the booze the guy kept crossing in front of us to retrieve. So, maybe for the average non-theatre-going patron, this was a fascinating evening of entertainment. I seek transformation and artistic enlightenment at the theatre. Have nothing better to do today and need to spend some cash in support of the Dallas Arts District? This one’s for you. Give me those “same old tired holiday performances” any day. Booty hole, booty hole, wherefore art thou…?
The Second City Dysfunctional Holiday Revue runs at 7:30 and 10:30 pm on 12/17 at the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre in the Dallas Arts District, presented by the AT&T Performing Arts Center. Box Office: (214) 880-0202