Soul Brother, Where Art Thou? – REVIEW
By J. Scott Hill
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The Second City e.t.c.’s new revue, Soul Brother, Where Art Thou?, has a sketch comedy dream team dominated by three women. Yes, Scott Morehead and Tim Ryder are fine utility players. Yes, Eddie Mujica believably disappears into every part he plays, even when he plays an inanimate object. The leaders of this team, however, are Lisa Beasley, Rashawn Nadine Scott, and Carisa Barreca.
Lisa Beasley is a wonderful paradox: her petite, demure physicality belies her commanding stage presence. Rashawn Nadine Scott is the kind of performer who draws the audience to her whether she is the focus of the scene or filling out the background, the kind of performer that makes the most out of every moment onstage.
Without doubt, the team captain here is Carisa Barreca. Barreca has been a very busy and valued contributor to The Second City universe over the past few years. Soul Brother, Where Art Thou? is Barreca’s third consecutive revue at The Second City e.t.c. During this time, she has also worked with The Second City’s well-reviewed collaborations with both Lyric Opera (The Second City’s Guide to the Opera) and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (The Art of Falling). With her platinum hair, vintage-style dresses, and welcoming smile, Barreca lulls an audience into a false sense of security, only to pounce with her panther-like comedy reflexes and her razor-sharp wit. Actor, improviser, writer, singer, dancer, and choreographer, Carisa Barreca is one to watch — in Soul Brother, Where Art Thou? and in the future.
Soul Brother, Where Art Thou? runs scattershot over society’s ills, from the one of the least touchable of hot-button issues to some of the most niggling idiosyncrasies of contemporary American life. One sketch has two elderly African-American men dispensing their wisdom about the current state of racism in America. Another sketch involves how the first wave of American tourists in Cuba for over half a century will be perceived by Cubans. Another depicts a person’s relationship with their anthropomophized smartphone (this sketch is far more on point — and pathetic — than Spike Jonze’s Her).
Soul Brother, Where Art Thou? is throwing some heat, but chooses not to face many really tough batters. Of course African Americans who fought through the civil rights struggle of the 1960s will have wisdom to impart regarding today’s struggles. Of course there will be mutual culture shock between Americans and Cubans, neither of whom have been allowed to take that 101-mile ferry ride between Key West and Havana since 1961. Of course nearly everybody is annoyed by everyone else’s relationship to their smartphones (but not their own).
The Second City e.t.c.’s thirty-ninth revue, Soul Brother, Where Art Thou? is terrific — well written, well performed, well directed, and funny. This cast is a team of future hall-of-famers, who, when allowed to choose their own lineup of opponents, could have taken on a few more heavy hitters.
(“Soul Brother, Where Art Thou?” is in Open Run at The Second City e.t.c., 1608 N. Wells, Chicago — in Piper’s Alley. 312-337-3992)
The Second City – Performances – Soul Brother, Where Art Thou?
Soul Brother, Where Art Thou? production photos by Todd Rosenberg.
* Visit Theatre In Chicago for more information on this show. Soul Brother, Where Art Thou? – Second City – Play Detail – Theatre In Chicago