Sex and the Second City Is Neither Sexy Nor Funny

Last Thursday night, shortly before the curtain rose on Arizona Theatre Company's Sex and the Second City Version 2.0, a young woman approached me and the three other theater critics with whom I was chatting in the lobby.

"Excuse me," she said, waving a camera at us. "Do you mind if I take a picture of you guys?"

"Why?" I asked. "Don't they have homosexual men where you come from?"

Sexless in the city: Unfunny castmates upgrade to 2.0.
Michael Brosilow
Sexless in the city: Unfunny castmates upgrade to 2.0.

Location Info

Map

Herberger Theater Center

222 E. Monroe St.
Phoenix, AZ 85004

Category: Performing Arts Venues

Region: Central Phoenix

Details

Sex and the Second City: Version 2.0 continues through March 20 at the Herberger Theater Center, 222 E. Monroe St. Call 602-256-6899 or visit www.arizonatheatre.org.

Two of my friends relented, and regretted this later when their pictures were flashed on a giant screen in Act One, as part of an unfunny skit about guys one might meet on an online dating service. This nonsense was the high point of a relentlessly dreadful evening of sketch comedy about how hard it is to find romance with someone decent these days.

I've seen productions I liked less than this one, but not in a very long time. I had high hopes, because last year's ATC collaboration with the Second City — the famous Chicago improv troupe that launched the careers of a long list of renowned comic actors — was sharp and funny and pleasant to watch. That show, about the peculiarities of life in metropolitan Phoenix, showcased the writing and stunning improvisational skills of this famed comedy school. Their new show rides on the coattails of its predecessor, and is neither funny nor sexy.

The giant iPhone hovering overhead and the many allusions to Facebook and viral videos cue us in that this is going to be hip and up-to-the-minute, and the handful of references to local amenities are meant to make us feel that we're watching something designed specially for our enjoyment. Fifteen minutes in, it's clear that references to Alice Cooper'stown and Sedona aren't enough, and that there's no enjoyment to be had anywhere in this shakily written jumble. And Fred Willard's participation — he appears throughout in prerecorded promotional gags for the apocryphal iLove Dating Service —brought me as close as I've come to hating this usually amusing actor.

Laughing at underdogs is only funny for so long, and all the characters depicted in this smarmy mess are total losers. There's the office flunky with a crush on her boss, who doesn't know she's alive; the dumpy guy who pantomimes his hopes for that evening's blind date, who cancels at the last second; the woman whose husband is so bored with her that he texts and tweets his way through every interaction the two have.

The lone audience-participation improv sketch came late and did little to make up for the crap that preceded it. On opening night, co-author Maribeth Monroe pulled a young boy from the audience and proceeded to make him pretend he was on a first date with her, while actor Jimmy Carlson tromped through the audience demanding funny prompts from ticketholders. Neither the actor nor her victim said or did a single thing that couldn't have been found in a fourth-grade talent show, in good part because the suggestions from the audience were as lame as the stuff onstage. Later, a story about a first date with a woman who's in a coma pushed the boundaries of bad taste and was just awful enough to make me forget all that lifeless improv.

But who am I? Those in the audience appeared to enjoy themselves. I suppose spinsters and women whose husbands don't want to hang out with them will probably take some comfort from this cheerless tripe. Anyone looking for laughs or enlightening commentary on today's dating scene should stay home.

 
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