Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Day 220 - The Second City Nut-Cracking Holiday Revue

I have never been to the Second City Nut-Cracking Holiday Revue. Although I was previously unaware of this touring holiday show put on by the legendary Chicago improv comedy troop, when I stumbled upon the show in a list of upcoming events, I knew I had to make time to attend. After all, the Second City’s history and reputation as one of the best improv  comedy groups in the world was enough to spur my interest by itself, and everything I read about the Nut-Cracking Holiday Revue indicated the event would be a hilarious way to warm up to the forthcoming holidays. As a result, I bought a few tickets, roped my friend Patrick into joining me for the show, and prepared for a memorable evening at the Barrymore Theatre this evening.

Time to laugh!
Following my workday, I met Patrick at the Barrymore this evening. After grabbing ourselves a couple of drinks, we made our way into the theatre and found the closest seats possible. Settling into our seats, Patrick and I chatted a bit and caught up on plans for the holidays as the seats around us filled with a steady trickle of people entering the theatre. Eventually, the space around us filled to capacity, which cued the lights to dim for the show to begin. In anticipation of the forthcoming humor, Patrick and I focused our attention forward and fixed our eyes on the dark stage. Seconds later a man walked out onto the stage and began to introduce the night’s event. With a few one liners and some basic guidelines about the flow of the performance, he welcomed everyone in the crowd before taking a step back and opening the stage to his fellow performers.

Nut-cracking, you say?
From that moment forward the show was flurry performance and laughter broken by periodic moments of dimmed lighting as the players hurriedly prepared their basic stage settings. Around six chairs and a few minor props, the Second City comedy troop moved through holiday-themed skits ranging from awkward family experiences to moments of holiday torment brought by the less bearable aspects of the season. Any attempt to describe the plots, acting, and jokes of the performance wouldn’t come close to doing them justice. As a result, I will simply say my time at the Second City’s Nut-Cracking Holiday Revue provided the funniest moments of my “I have never...” year to date.

Stated plainly, the unending well of humor and sharp wit offered by the six members of the Second City troop effectively induced rolling fits of laughter throughout the entire performance.  While each player brought a unique style and perspective to the comedic performance, the group’s ability to feed off of one another’s remarks and actions added the best kind of ridiculousness to each segment of the performance. The collaboration in a performance environment of constant change was impressive and, of course, hilarious. Although I expected the performance to be funny, The Second City’s balance between in-your-face honesty about the holidays, creativity, and a touch of moments more profane left Patrick and I forcing out statements of disbelief as we attempted to catch our breath between laughs.

Heading out... All smiles
As the night progressed, each subsequent joke, bit, and sketch offered by the troop made it more clear why the Second City maintained it reputation in the comedy world. The writing of the prepared sketches took common scenarios in new and comical directions, and the group’s ability to adapt to the changing environment of their improv performances was stellar. Even when the audience would throw our suggestions that were beyond obscure, the Second City troop would happily oblige and would work them into their performances seamlessly; often in ways that were unpredictable and completely unexpected. As a result, the performance moved very quickly as the night carried on, which left Patrick and I feeling a bit disappointed when the show culminated in a final, once again hilarious, improv performance during which the troop used the audience gift suggestion of a Star Wars figurine as a metaphor for describing intimate moments with each troop member. While the troop had put on a show that spanned nearly two hours, we easily would have stayed for more had the show carried on. With that, it was clear tonight was a good night.

As the show drew to a close, Patrick and I recapped some of our favorite moments on our trip toward the theatre entrance. Doing our best to remember some of the punch lines, we chuckled at the more ridiculous scenes that had made up the show and excitedly called out one moment after another as we walked. Our efforts made me realize everything about this evening’s experience was terrific, with the only real letdown coming from the prohibition of photography during the performance. That minor point aside, I’m glad I set aside time to gain my first experience with the Second City’s Nut-Cracking Holiday Revue. The performance exceeded my expectations on nearly every front, and the laughter it created was more than enough to warm me on a cold winter night. To me, that definitely makes the Nut-Cracking Holiday Revue something worth revisiting. Something tells me I’ll be trying to drag plenty more people out to a show with me this time next year.

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