Tuesday, September 23, 2003

No Shirt, No Shoes, No Weapons of Mass Destruction (Second City)

The Second City matures well!!

The first show presented by Cleveland’s The Second City several years ago was an acceptable, if not totally satisfying production of improvisation and scripted humor. Their latest show, ‘NO SHIRT, NO SHOES, NO WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION, is much, much, much better.

The title may indicate that you’ll be hearing a lot of anti federal administration put downs. And, though that group in DC deserves it, they only get a small bashing. Most of the humor is aimed at Cleveland, but not the local politicians, with the exception of our own presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich. Too bad the cast wasn’t in tune with local goings-on like the convention center fiasco; Queen Jane’s do-nothing reign; the three stooges, otherwise know as the county commissioners; the pitiful Indians; the score-nothing Browns and the pre-LeBaronCavs. TV newsman Ted Henry did get his due, however.

What is presented is mainly funny stuff. Highlights included the group getting stuck on the elevator during the blackout, Giant Eagles push for getting people to sign up for bonus cards, being fixed-up on a date by one’s ever-present mother, life with a windup girl friend, the birth of a baby and his desire to return to the womb, the chat room date, the metrosexual, and an all guys weekend at a cabin minus the much needed beer.

Several weak segments slowed down the proceedings including a lame skit about a personal trainer, a totally misguided piece centering on a pool noodle which continued to surface in an attempt to get some laughs from the bad idea, a portion about an accountant, and a misguided smoking segment.

Only one of the original Cleveland cast remains. And, that one, Cody Dove, is still the strongest member of the ensemble. He frowns, grimaces, and looks spaced-out in the best of comedic ways. He delivers lines with the right punch. Don’t be surprised if you see him appear on “Saturday Night Live” where such Second City alumni as Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, John Candy, Rick Morani and Martin Short eventually emerged. Yes, he’s that good. Lauren Dowden is also excellent. She adjusts well both physically and verbally to the goings-on. The rest of the local cast (Kiff Vanden Heuvel, Katie Caussin, Randall Harr, Nathan Cockerill) is fine, a long step up from most of the original local neophytes.

The first two acts of semi-scripted material is normally followed by an audience participation unit. It was disappointing that on opening night, that latter, popular and potentially funny segment, was omitted. This is where the viewers really find out, who is a quick thinker, who can hold his or her own in the midst of potential disaster. It can only be hoped that at future productions the improv segments are returned.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: If you were disappointed by previous productions, it is now time to return to THE SECOND CITY CLEVELAND and see the new, better version. If you liked past shows, you’ll love this one!