The Second City made a wise decision bringing Annaliese Toft back to direct the newest e.t.c. revue after she helmed the wonderfully orchestrated Gaslight District. Their 43rd revue, Grinning from Fear to Fear, is even more cohesive and hilarious, and much of the infectious energy is due to Toft’s lead. A wonderful ensemble and tonally balanced scenes add to an unforgettable evening of theatre, providing a strong reminder of why The Second City is among the most respected comedic institutions in the world.
While the revue is not as overtly political as you may expect, the sketches capitalize on the ridiculousness of our world’s current events by letting the hilarious moments sell themselves without gimmick. The singing and dancing are there, and reluctant (or not), audience members occasionally join the fun. But Fear uses these devices to build upon incredibly strong material, rather than to disguise second-rate humor.
There is not a weak link in the ensemble. The evening feels especially tailored toward Andrew Knox, who earns the crowd’s trust early on and often serves as their guide into a scene. Mark Campbell was another audience favorite, often earning the chance to stretch his moments a bit longer thanks to howling laughter. Laurel Krabacher, E.J. Cameron, and Chuck Norment are equally hysterical together and separately - and Atra Adou easily shifts tonally from the ‘straight’ roles to the more comic roles, refusing to be pigeon-holed as one or the other. Out of the entire ensemble, Adou’s performance is most reminiscent of some of the greatest Second City alumna.
Watching this team having a blast on Bob Knuth’s colorful set makes the two hours fly by in a blink. Grinning from Fear to Fear is the best new revue from The Second City in a while - and the bar is always high. (Jason Berger)
Highly Recommended ★★★★
Grinning from Fear to Fear is now playing at The Second City. More info here.
The Hawk Chicago is included in TheatreInChicago's Review Round-Up.