Mon 8 Dec, 2014
Tags: 1-2-3 Fag!, 4 STARS, I'm Sorry I Missed You, Improvised Shakespeare Company, John Hartman, Open Run, Panic on Cloud 9, The Second City, Your Friends and Enemies
More than the Goodman, even more than Steppenwolf, Second City is Chicago’s most sought out theatre destination for out-of-towners — for theatregoers, for actors and comedians in search of training and experience and opportunity, for professionals in the entertainment industry looking for up-and-coming performers and/or writers. No one at Second City is more keenly aware of this than the folks involved in the revues on the Mainstage. I have seen several revues on the E.T.C. stage that were notably funnier and edgier than their concurrent Mainstage counterparts. I wouldn’t say that Mainstage shows tend to play to the least common denominator; rather, that the weight of being THE Second City revue — at least, as far as the wide world is concerned — tends to pull a Mainstage show out of the dark corners, away from the fringe, and more toward the middle.
The new Mainstage revue, Panic on Cloud 9, is unconcerned with anything but being the funniest damn show it can be.
The mostly rapid barrage of sketches mostly avoids the easier, more comfortable laughs as it lays waste to society’s preconceived notions about disparate subjects: from the experience of the comatose, to the affirmation of children, to the Secret Service. The pacing is broken halfway through the show by a comparatively long cowboy sketch — but, instead of bringing the party to an abrupt end, it serves as the spotlight dance.
This is a talented, cohesive ensemble. Chelsea Devantez John Hartman, Paul Jurewicz, Daniel Strauss, Christine Tawfik, and Emily Walker are all fantastic utility players. Chelsea Devantez and Emily Walker are given the greater variety of personalities to portray, and are both cunning actors.
The star shining most visibly through Panic on Cloud 9 is John Hartman. He can and does play some fairly regular guys in some sketches, but the quirkier the character, the more he excels at playing that character. He’s like a plate spinner of idiosyncrasies: the more oddball things he has to do simultaneously, the more enjoyable and impressive his performance becomes. Hartman’s youthful looks belie his years of outstanding work here in Chicago — not only in Panic on Cloud 9 and Depraved New World on the Second City Mainstage, but notably with the improv troupes 1, 2, 3, Fag! and the Improvised Shakespeare Company at iO, and his successful solo shows Your Friends and Enemies and I’m Sorry I Missed You at the Annoyance. He’s honed his craft, he’s paid his dues, and, within five years of whenever he takes the leap to New York or Los Angeles, he’ll be a household name.
Panic on Cloud 9 is a daring, hilarious triumph for the Second City Mainstage — the best Mainstage revue in years. Once the word gets out through the Chicago media as to just how delightful Panic on Cloud 9 is, the out-of-towners may find themselves hard pressed to get tickets.
(“Panic on Cloud 9″ is in OPEN RUN at The Second City Mainstage, 1616 North Wells Street. 312-337-3992.)
Panic on Cloud 9 production photos by Todd Rosenberg.