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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

The Second City's America All Better!!

A Separate Peace
Scott Morehead and Niccole Thurman
Photo by Todd Rosenberg
The Second City's America All Better!! is the fifth in a series of original works by the famed Chicago comedy-improvisation troupe to be presented at Washington's Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. It's perfect light entertainment for a hot, stifling D.C. summer day; it's also so popular that Woolly Mammoth has just announced a two-week extension of the run.

The premise behind the title is that the re-election of Barack Obama, along with the growing acceptance of same-sex marriage and the improving economy, are all signs that the nation is recovering from the social and political frustrations of 2012. Director Ryan Bernier and his six cast members certainly have fun with the current political climate (one bit dramatizes the connection between money and influence in an easily comprehensible way), but the performance is less a polemic and more about everyday events—a blind date, a high school reunion, a romantic evening at home—taken to a ludicrous extreme.

The skilled cast members—Aaron Bliden, Martin Garcia, Sayjal Joshi, Scott Morehead, Niccole Thurman, and Claudia Michelle Wallace—are seemingly in constant motion throughout the show, which runs about two hours including intermission. They do sketch comedy, sing, contort themselves (sometimes literally climbing the walls), and solicit suggestions from the audience.

Some of the skits seem to be evergreens: the look at an "average American family" at different points in the past century, for example, and a meet-the-boyfriend's-parents sketch that suggests that gay couples can be just as boring as straight ones. On the other hand, sometimes the characters become self-referential (one performer refuses to leave the stage because he doesn't want the scene to end) and sometimes it's just silly fun (the cast singing about the menace lurking behind a cute fašade). In addition, Jesus reveals his middle name to a joint session of Congress.

Maybe it isn't profound, but it's beautifully done and enormous fun. People sitting in the front rows should be careful, though: they might be "invited" onto the stage and expected to join in the improvisation.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
The Second City's America All Better!!
July 9th - August 18 th
Ensemble: Aaron Bliden, Martin Garcia, Sayjal Joshi, Scott Morehead, Niccole Thurman, Claudia Michelle Wallace
Directed by Ryan Bernier
Musical direction by Jacob Shuda
641 D St. N.W., Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-393-3939 or www.woollymammoth.net.


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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