North Korea’s nukes hurtle toward the U.S.—targeting both rural and urban areas—and we’ve got 15 minutes left to live, all the while being “monitored” by an unknown Russian operative who insists he is not a spy. Will we continue to bicker? Or raise a glass and drink one final toast to old (and new) friends alike?
Last summer—nearly a year to the day—I sat in the Kennedy Center and watched Second City, bombastic and almost self-righteous, gut politician after politician. It was a different world then, one where many thought that America was barreling toward an historic moment, wherein a woman would hold the highest office for the first time in the U.S. Instead, November 2016 surprised many and ushered in a different type of historic era.
This summer, we are now on Day 100-something of an embattled, new administration. Enter Second City’s Almost Accurate Guide to America: Divided We Stand. Seems about right. Definitely needed. Always welcomed in D.C. A city continually steeped in the quagmire of national in-fighting and generalized as a swamp must laugh some time to keep from crying all the time.
Like about men who mansplain and think of females as just sexual objects or the purple-clad Prince reigning on high. Divided We Stand is a more somber, subdued show, but no less funny than its predecessor and certainly more contemplative. It tackles women’s issues, covering everything from abortion to growing up girl in a boy world in a beautifully poignant (but still funny) skit in which the entire casts sings, “You are he and she every damn day,” and takes on race relations full steam.
In perhaps one of the most prescient skits, Ryan Asher hosts an infomercial to hawk “Tammy Clack’s Fight Pack” and “period” patches that thwart sexual attackers because, as she screams—in a rare, overtly criticism of how the country voted in November—“Your pussies are up for grabs because the President said so and nobody gave a shit!”
closes August 13, 2017
Details and tickets
How do you talk about being black in America? Through baseball, of course. Or the description of a black heaven, where everyone treats you “like you are sexy and you matter.” Alise carries the torch on these fronts, bringing such smooth intelligence to the conversation it feels almost sinful to laugh at her performance.
And let’s just admit that some protesters are snowflakes and some rural folk are crass. Doesn’t mean that all, on both fronts, lack valid points or underappreciate Shakespeare. Second City is very aware of all the stereotypes, playing to and against them with guffaw-inducing precision.
Ross Taylor takes on the token, rural white guy, playing a recovering alcoholic and later a Montana transplant confounded that no one at his new job has any Montana jokes, only to gather that they know nothing about his home state, an anger-inducing realization. Kershaw is a romance novelist obsessed with murder and always the backwoods sounding bimbo when needed. Tyler Davis takes on a young black man who is a virgin and voted for Trump. Chucho Perez is often a fiery, impassioned Latino who sees the end of the world as just another opportunity to lose his shirt (and spars excellently with Alise in the baseball skit). And, Asher is just awesome—as Tammy Clack, herself, a painfully unaware millennial protestor who thinks she is aware, and the arbitrator of audience participation.
There is plenty of song and dance. Even a Fred Astaire-esque number about (a lack of) gun control that is an incredibly spot-on observation of the logical fallacy of, say, the NRA. It follows a seemingly odd, out-of-place skit about “The Bass Man,” played flamboyantly by Davis. In retrospect, the scene is beyond brilliant: people dancing around while the Bass Man does not play the bass, a fact questioned by a wheel-chair-bound Taylor. It’s not the lack of promised bass playing that angers the other participants, it’s the questioning by the questioner, causing them to throw him from the chair. These days, it seems we lash out against those who dare call for accountability, which is not a left/urban or right/rural idea.
Without really mentioning the government, Second City eviscerates government. While I heard some patrons mumble that they thought the show would be more political, I posit that more is said less directly. It’s all there: Russia, North Korea, abortion rights, gun control, the war on the press (left and right), and the rural/urban divide. Without uttering the president’s name and only offering three brief politician impressions, Divided We Stand is still knee-deep in commentary on current (and pending) policies and presidential actions. It is a sublime convergence of culturally and politically insightful material with a backbone that is pure, genuine, raw, real emotion. Does it skew left? Maybe. But does feeling anger at people from big cities and self-important states because they know nothing of fly-over states fall solely to the right? This liberal Missourian says no, and hobnobs with plenty of righties who would laugh hard at the Montana skit.
About those nukes—the thread running through nearly every skit. If they are truly imminent, heed the advice of a PSA broadcast across the country that urges you to “make peace with your God.” Second City suggests, also, we make peace with another. Well played, comrades. Well played indeed.
Divided We Stand is rich in thoughtful humor that prods our deepest societal anxieties with sincere affection for all things America and all Americans.
Second City’s Almost Accurate Guide to America: Divided We Stand . Directed by Billy Bungeroth. Written by Billy Bungeroth, Angela Alise, Ryan Asher, Tyler Davis, Ed Furman, Katie Kershaw, Chucho Perez, Ross Taylor, and The Casts of The Second City. Featuring Angela Alise, Ryan Asher, Tyler Davis, Katie Kershaw, Chucho Perez, and Ross Taylor. Production: Dane Halvorson, Music Director; Colin K. Bills, Scenic and Lighting Design; Izumi Inaba, Costume Design; and Julie B. Nichols, Sound Design and Original Composition. Stage Managed by William Collins. Produced by Second City Theatricals. Presented by The Kennedy Centeer . Reviewed by Kelly McCorkendale.