***RECOMMENDED The title of The Second City e.t.c.'s 47th revue may be a bit misleading for some. "Oh, the Places You'll Glow!" is not an adaptation nor a parody of the final work of the late, great children's author Dr. Seuss. Aside from a clever, but seusical, rhyming voice-over delivered as the house lights are dimmed at the top of the show regarding the usual message to turn off all cell phones and unwrap candy, this show has more in common with Ken Kesey or Timothy Leary than with Dr. Seuss himself. What you will discover. as one of the places you'll go, is a prismatic and rainbow-hued trip through a variegated wonderland more commonly known as America in the year 2023. 3 SPOTLIGHTS
As with all shows at The Second City, this one was created as a collaboration of some very talented writers who then act as the ensemble members. They include Meghan Babbe, Leila Gorstein, Claudia Martinez, Tim Metzler, Jordan Savusa and Brittani Yawn. Also, shows in the e.t.c. space tend to be much more daring -- they play faster and looser -- than those found on the Main Stage. They are also more inclined to be raunchier. "Oh, the Places You'll Glow!" is no exception. This is definitely an adult show.
The first sketch starts the evening off on a promising note. It details a first date (or one-night stand, perhaps) that includes all of the most cringe-inducing tropes imaginable. Some of the material that follows misses the mark and the first half of the show is bogged down by a lengthy piece that shows just how divisive this nation is at the present moment, all because of a simple hobby like knitting. (The hobby will change nightly based on a response from the audience -- it just happened to be knitting on opening night). Think extensive coverage by news anchors at Fox News versus those at MSNBC.
Thankfully, director Jeff Griggs speeds up the pace dramatically in the second half, which is extremely funny -- sometimes shockingly so. This section is dominated by the supremely talented Claudia Martinez, who seems to generate the biggest laughs in the majority of the sketches that she's in -- and there are many. From a spoiled, curly-haired child star (and eventual double Oscar-winner) to a wannabe Italian mobster tour guide and even a spiritual guru leading the audience through a psychedelic odyssey after injesting a micro-dose of magic mushrooms, Martinez proves to be the most versatile performer among this ensemble.
However, the evening's most impactful and emotionally powerful sketch involves Babbe and Gortstein as a mother and her teen-aged daughter, respectively. It is set, of all places, within the constritcted confines of a fitting room at TJ Maxx. There are some very harsh realities uncovered in this segment regarding ageism and body image. Who knew there would be such nuggets of wisdom at an improv comedy show?
Kudos to Abby Beggs for her innovative lighting design which includes scenes played under black light, features the frequent use of large tubular glow sticks and some moments even occur in complete darkness. Beggs also serves as Stage Manager. Also worthy of mention is the work of John Love who is Music Director but also composed original music and the sound design. All very strong, especially the music which travels from the late 1960s until the end of the disco era. It ensures that you will have a groovy and funky good time.
Now back to Dr. Seuss. Deceptively, this show does have a theme which is notably featured in his final work. That word would be resilience. As we all continue along life's journey, we must keep pushing on, keep moving forward, despite one's fears or personal difficulties.
"Glow" see this show.
"Oh, the Places You'll Glow!" continues through January 28, 2024
The Second City e.t.c. Theater is locate at 230 West North Avenue, 2nd Floor of Piper's Alley, Chicago
Performances are Thursdays at 8:00 PM, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:00 PM and 10:00 PM and Sundays at 7:00 PM
Tickets: Online at www.secondcity.com or by phone at 312-337-3992
Running time is approximately 2 hours with one intermission