Oh, the Places You’ll Glow!, Second City e.t.c.’s 47th revue, lands plenty of great lines and delivers on several strong setups. But what takes this show to the next level–bang! zoom! straight to the moon!–is the broad, old-fashioned physical humor that courses through so many of the scenes.
That sensation may be attributable in part to the somewhat intoxicating but still nervous joy of sitting side by side by side (to borrow a phrase from another great show currently in town) with an audience mingling up close with the performers. In fact, one of the songs underlines that giddy feeling with a chorus of, “There could be covid…” And it’s not as if The Second City hasn’t done more than its share of great physical comedy over the decades in both the Mainstage and e.t.c. theaters.
For whatever reason, the physicality of these performers stands out more than usual. Rubber-faced Jordan Savusa had me in tears with his huge, incongruous expressions as his best-buddy partner on a children’s TV show melted down live onstage because Savusa–decked out in a foam rainbow mohawk–refused to take their relationship out of the friend zone. His scene partner, Leila Gorstein, also knows how to land physical laughs, as when, late in the sketch, she attempts to park the imaginary tandem bicycle she was trying to ride away on.
Claudia Martinez uncorks a similar gift for broad physical comedy, especially when playing a Shirley Temple-curled child actress whose father (Tim Metzler, who can quickly go from playing the bewildered straight man to a kinky supermarket customer licking bottle tops with incredible pantomime precision) seems ready to put her down like a horse with a broken leg on a racetrack.
Martinez later joins the quick-witted and warm-hearted Meghan Babbe as the Italian-American hosts of a Chicago gangster tour who walk though the audience asking oddball questions and then capping their responses with, “And that’s-a the real crime!” It sounds dumb, but with these two, it really plays. I could have happily watched them work the crowd as those characters for another 15 minutes.
The climax of the physical comedy comes in the form of a sci-fi sketch featuring the entire ensemble–including the effervescent Brittani Yawn–in which a doctor decides to clone herself only to pump out so many bad copies that a clone brawl ensues, ultimately roping in the entire audience. It is gleefully, wonderfully executed silliness.
As noted, there are plenty of great lines and clever comedic setups throughout the revue as well, including a long piece that runs a hobby suggested by an audience member (knitting on opening night) through the meat grinder of Fox News and MSNBC politicization, with both channels switching sides in the struggle to cancel or promote knitting midway through.
Also fun in a similar vein is a sketch where a progressive man (Metzler) is about to hook up with a woman (Gorstein) who begins expressing increasingly intense MAGA political views. At first the scene seems to be skewering right-wing loonies, but then it takes a much funnier turn that aims at the incredibly low bar men have to clear in this society to be applauded.
This cast also shows a fearless commitment to a few absurdist sketches that defy easy description but are worth experiencing in person, such as an incredibly dark trip to the Lincoln Park Zoo. Sure, there are a few clunkers along the way (such as a meandering wah-wah peek inside Hell’s waiting room), but overall this revue is a muscular delight.
Even though, as the song says, there could be covid…
Oh, the Places You’ll Glow! is now running at The Second City e.t.c. Theater.
For a full roundup of reviews of this show, visit Theatre in Chicago.
Photo by Timothy M. Schmidt