Black for More: The Dirty Ass Rhonda Comeback Show, Second City E.T.C., and The Buttling Butler Buttles, at Second City, Donny's Skybox Studio. Written and performed by Claudia Wallace and directed by John Hildreth, Black for More is far riskier and raunchier than anything else currently running in Chicago. Of course that's the point of this homage to--and send-up of--such foulmouthed black comedians of the 60s as Redd Foxx and Rudy Ray Moore. Wallace's persona, Dirty Ass Rhonda, is even mentored by Foxx, whom she later kills in a freak accident.
This wry mockumentary recounts Rhonda's rise and fall in the business--we learn, among other things, that her family name is Ass, that she was named Dirty at birth, and that later she acquired the nickname Rhonda--followed by portions of her comeback concert. At times Wallace's all-too-short show almost reaches the transgressive power of Chris Rock or Richard Pryor; it's extraordinary, and a little obsessive, the way she's able to weave the word "pussy" into punch lines and well-known songs: "Old Black Pussy," for "Old Black Magic" and "Oklahoma!," for example. Still, one leaves this less reverential version of The Vagina Monologues wishing for something more. Greater length, perhaps, or a wider range of topics. This solo show might be stronger if Wallace explored such controversial subjects as race and religion with the same depth and comic rage she does sex.
If Peter Grosz has any comic rage in his being, it doesn't show in his dutiful solo piece, The Buttling Butler Buttles, directed by Second City main-stage actor Sue Gillan. A talented improviser, Grosz is a likable performer with a knack for comic voices. But his writing is rarely anything more than mildly diverting. Like a lot of young performers, Grosz has mastered the sketch-comedy form without finding anything new or worthwhile to say, packing his show with bits about crazy people, old girlfriends, bad theater. Some tape from his bar mitzvah is one of the highlights, and a long sketch mocking the Code of Hammurabi one of its low points. The one thing Grosz never does is convince us we should care.