Love is a battlefield

Second City impresses at DCPA

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Second City touring cast, photo by Adam Lundeen
Adam Lundeen

Improv can be tough for the introverted theatergoer. The lights come up and a group of actors break the fourth wall, looking hungrily at the audience for suggestions on where and how the show will proceed. There’s tension for both audience and actor as they wonder, “What’s going to happen next?” 

But even the quietest audience member can find improv deeply rewarding. When done right, improv delivers a dynamic slice of creativity ripe for laughter. 

Now playing at the Garner Galleria Theater through Aug. 25, The Second City presents, It’s Not You, It’s Me, part improv, part skit show, that takes a look at the ins and outs of modern love.

Second City, formed in Chicago in 1959, is a world-renowned comedy troupe that has turned out famous alumni including Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Gilda Radner and Bill Murray. 

It’s Not You, It’s Me will hit close to home for millennials — i.e., texting faux pas and awkward ride shares — but it’s enjoyable for all ages. After all, just because the technology has changed, doesn’t mean the complicated nature of love has. While it’s not a new topic, the show serves as a fresh, insightful look at the timeless battlefield of love. 

The performance provides a fast-paced evening of laughs. It moves along quickly and offers the audience a smorgasbord of quick one-liners and fully fleshed-out sketches delivered with sincerity and exuberance. Improv is unlike other forms of theater because it is co-created with the audience, making each performance unique. It creates an intimacy with the performers, and thankfully in the hands of improv veterans, any audience unease quickly dissipates.  

At the risk of being too vague, It’s Not You, It’s Me truly is a show best enjoyed spoiler-free. Topics cover the gamut, from the mundane to more serious subject matter including social anxiety and racism — complete with punchline, of course. One of the most refreshing choices of the night was a noticeable absence of heavy political humor. While The Donald didn’t get off unscathed, not being brow beaten with American politics was a welcome bit of escapism. 

The six actors — Meghan Babbe, Kiley Fitzgerald, Evan Mills, George C. Owens, Jackie Southee and Jordan Stafford — each had many chances to show off a variety of talents. You really get the sense of range when a performer goes from acting like a child, to a raccoon, to an elderly person, to an inanimate object all within five minutes. 

The group works as a symbiotic team, playing off of each other. There’s nothing quite like the frenzied energy of a well-oiled improv troupe, and this show offers a primer on how it’s done. Each actor was charismatic and funny, and while it’s unclear if an audience member will get to say they saw the next star of Saturday Night Live, that’s all part of the fun. 

Overall, the performance was strong and the actors delivered a great show. However, an intermission brought an undesirable, awkward slow down to a night that was otherwise moving at a pleasant pace. An improv show creates a delicate relationship between audience and actors, an atmosphere that can be destroyed far too easily. Intermission interrupted the ecosystem created in the theater. The fast-paced show put the brakes on, and then took a considerable amount of time to get back on pace. It would have benefited greatly from skipping intermission and trimming some superfluous sketches to get it down to an hour and a half show. 

Thankfully, the lone hiccup didn’t affect the overall outcome of the show, and the night ended just as strong as it started. As with any comedy, the audience left with a light and breezy feeling — the perfect way to spend a summer night.    

ON THE BILL: ‘It’s Not You, It’s Me’ — The Second City. Now playing the Garner Galleria Theatre. 1101 13th St., Denver.