AN EVENING WITH THE SECOND CITY, Second City, at the South Shore Cultural Center. In a place as diverse as Chicago, the mostly white, straight, male ensembles at Second City have looked increasingly out of step with reality. So it's not surprising that the powers that be have begun playing with the not so revolutionary idea of primarily African-American ensembles, of which An Evening With the Second City is the latest incarnation.
A compilation of "the best scenes and songs from Second City's past," to quote the program, as well as a few improvised sketches, the show is as frustrating as it is entertaining, in part because it's being performed in a huge space with a wicked echo. But mostly the show disappoints because, as a "best of" show, it gives us only a fleeting glimpse of the kind of evening that might have resulted from the mix of such brilliant comic minds as Aaron Freeman, John Hildreth, and Martin Garcia.
A lot of the material could as easily have been performed by white comedians--and has been, many times. Especially the tired old sketch in which Mary and Joseph visit a marriage counselor because she insists God is the father of her child. The sketches that relate most directly to the black community--a send-up of the Million Man March, a parody of the Temptations, a touching bit in which three Chicagoans sit on a porch and comment on the paper--have so much more bite than the rest that one wishes director Freeman et al had been given license to create a show from scratch. --Jack Helbig