By Suzy Evans
Here in Chicago, we have almost as many improv and comedy groups as we do theaters. Okay, there might be more theaters, but with the prolific work of The Second City and other notables like the iO (ImprovOlympic) and Annoyance Theatre, Chicago definitely has its name on the comedy map.
Earlier this week, I saw the latest Second City mainstage production America: All Better and my companion posed an interesting question: Do theater critics review comedy shows in Chicago? While I wasn’t reviewing this show, I do cover shows by Second City and other improv companies. (The site I write for doesn’t have a comedy specific writer; however, I think we’re looking for one so maybe that arena will be taken from me.) Chris Jones, at the Tribune reviews the comedy fare but Time Out Chicago gives theater and comedy different categories. Writers can crossover between the sections though.
But aside from being a live performance in a theater, in terms of dramatic flow, are sketch comedy and theater really all that similar? Second City revues are scripted, but there’s not usually a plot. Instead, the show comprises a series of sketches relating to a general theme. In America: All Better, it’s the tongue in cheek idea that President Obama’s election erases all our problems. I suppose this is similar to the structure of any theatrical revue, but other comedy groups can put on a night of different sketches by multiple companies with no common thread. Or one company can improvise the entire evening. Is this something that can be categorized as theater?
We do have enough theaters and improv clubs in Chicago that putting them in separate categories might insure more press coverage. But at the same time, some comedy shows are closer in structure to “basic” theater than others. So where do you draw the line? Or does the line even need to be drawn?
Friday, August 28, 2009
By Suzy Evans