America All Better! at Woolly Mammoth Theatre

With its previous efforts, the famed Chicago-based improv engine Second City showed a knack for tickling the hard-to-reach funny bone of many a Washingtonian.

Back in 2009, Barack Stars: The Wrath of Rahm showed us a new, absurd side of the two men who had just swept in from Illinois and became the most powerful figures in Washington. The fact that A Girl’s Guide to Washington Politics racked up the highest advance sales in the Woolly Mammoth Theatre’s history proved that even two years after the presidential election, people still found Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton to be good fodder for comedy.

Second City ensemble of America All Better!

Second City ensemble of America All Better!

But with America All Better!, Second City’s newest effort for the nation’s capitol directed by Ryan Bernier, the object of satire is no longer politics and the people in power, but the American public. America All Better! pokes fun at the hooked-up, technology dependent society that we’ve become, and the “gluten-free, post-racial, gender-neutral” future that many people see as ideal.

The always high-energy Second City cast is top-notch. The ensemble consists of Aaron Bliden (formerly in Olney’s Rabbit Hole), a bombastic Martin Garcia, Sayjal Joshi, Scott Morehead, Nicole Thurman (who deserves an Oscar for her impression of a blow-up doll–I’m serious), and Claudia Michelle Wallace who is worth keeping an eye out for due to the smart upgrade she gives in many of the sketches to the typical “angry black woman” schtick.

Woolly Company Member Colin K. Bills contributes set and lighting elements. Accolades to Musical Director Jacob Shuda, for seaming together both Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Chris Issak’s “Wicked Games” in the same production.

The major–and glaring weak point here is that most of the sketches were written in 2008, and humor rarely ages well. The sketches parody everything from Facebook and online-dating to the gun debate to cupcakes and brunch.

America All Better!
Closes August 4, 2013
Woolly Mammoth Theatre
641 D St NW
Washington, DC
1 hour, 45 minutes with 1 intermission
Tickets: $70 – $95
Tuesdays thru Sundays
Details and Tickets
And while giving the Second City treatment to these subjects is funny, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it all felt a bit retrograde. Facebook jokes were hysterical back in 2008, but in 2013, they’re a dime a dozen. The skits lack a certain irreverence that many people have grown to expect from Second City.

While the genius of Barack Stars and  A Girl’s Guide lay in its SNL-like timeliness, both revues stuck to events and situations that were currently in the public eye. The end-result being jokes so fresh they seemed to be written that night. America All Better! tries to satirize roughly everything that happened since the Technology Age began. The consequence is that the show loses its edge; sketches about 5 Hour Energy and blow-up dolls lose their spark when the objects of satire are commonplace enough to cease being funny by themselves.

A key example of such stale comedy is when the troupe pulls a male member of the audience on-stage, in order to have him take part in a gay wedding. This might have been funny a decade ago, or in Milwaukee, when the simple act of confusing a straight man as gay was hysterical enough to be the punchline, in 2013 in the nation capital, the best it inspires is an eye-roll.



Other reviews:

Susan Berlin . Talkin’Broadway
Chuck Conconi . WashingtonLife
Patrick Pho . WeLoveDC
Seth Rose . MDTheatreGuide
Amanda Gunther . DCMetroTheaterArts
Marsha Dubrow . Examiner
Peter Marks . Washington Post
Sophie Gilbert . Washingtonian
Jennifer Perry . BroadwayWorld
Sophie Gilbert . Washingtonian
Joan Fuchsman . Examiner
Jennifer Perry . BroadwayWorld




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