Review “Algorithm Nation or Static Quo” (The Second City): Aggressive, Dark Comedy

Wednesday, December 12, 2018 Permalink

The Second City presents its 107th Mainstage Revue, ALGORITHM NATION Or STATIC QUO.

The new mainstage show goes aggressive and dark. The opening bit has Jeffrey Murdoch in a hostage situation. He’s in his underwear with his nipples taped. He’s being threatened and tortured. The vibe isn’t playful. It’s tense. Then, the entire troupe is onstage dressed in black with guns. This is the extreme opposite of an SNL cold opening. It’s uncomfortably hot… like in hot potato. And that sets the tone for the evening.

Throughout the show, I have two significant revelations about the ensemble (Ryan Asher, Tyler Davis, Jeffrey Murdoch, Emma Pope, Nate Varrone, Kimberly Michelle Vaughn). They are equally talented and angry. In the Mainstage Revue tradition, the ensemble writes and performs the material. Although their creation is directed by veteran Matt Hovde, this was unlike any Second City show I’ve ever seen. 

I’m used to the politically-charged sketches. In fact, I enjoy them. In this current state of presidential absurdity, I need a little funny escapism. I want a show that balances the searing satire with light frothy lampoon. This show doesn’t have that. And maybe, that’s the point. The title suggests the theme is based on algorithms. So, they start the show execution-style to grab us by the throat and pull us down this dark rabbit hole of guns, killings, #metoo, racism. This is serious adult content. 

At my performance, an audience member even yelled out ‘fake news.’ I almost felt sorry for the poor tourist… I’m guessing. He obviously didn’t understand the political nature of a Second City show. And this one, in particular, would have been extremely painful for conservative folk to experience. 

I did laugh. I especially LOVED Ryan Asher’s sketch at a Women for Trump rally. She’s the opening act to get the female base excited. Wearing a Trump style wig, Asher spouts out hilarious Trump-isms and then does a high kick for emphasis. It’s hilarious! 

Toward the end of the show, the ensemble has an unsuspecting audience member join them on stage for an interactive bit. It’s their signature move to provide improv entertainment. As ‘the innocent’ is brought on stage, it feels like the performers lighten up. They have spewed their collective anger and now they are adjusting for company. I exhale at the comedy relief brought by the audience member.

ALGORITHM NATION or STATIC QUO is aggressive, dark comedy. It jumpstarts with angst and then drives furiously into gloomy madness. And the troupe doesn’t let up on the gas until they pick up a bystander.             

Running Time: Two hours includes an intermission

The Second City, 1616 N. Wells

Written by Ryan Asher, Tyler Davis, Jeffrey Murdoch, Emma Pope, Nate Varrone, Kimberly Michelle Vaughn

Directed by Matt Hovde

Buy Tickets at www.secondcity.com

For more Chicago theatre information and reviews, please visit Theatre in Chicago

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