The lineup for the ninth annual Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival features lots of local players in key positions. Chicago mainstays and up-and-comers earned prime slots for the event, scheduled to bring more than 100 ensembles to Theatre Building Chicago over the next two weekends. Executive director Brian Posen says that’s just how things shook out: deserving groups get the gig, and this is the home teams’ year to shine.
On opening night, look for Sad on Vacation (Thu 1/7, 8 PM, with Fried Green Durbins): nine promising young Annoyance Theatre guys with silly slapstick and keen emotional sensibilities in their arsenal. Chicago’s touchstone Harold team, The Reckoning (Sat 1/9, 8 PM), branches away from long form here with an episode of their satirical Murder, He Wrote, blending surreal premises and slice-of-life scene work. (Strangers With Candy’s Greg Holliman guests.) Even if you missed The Best Church of God’s Christmas services, you can still find salvation in their finely tuned mock sermons and hymns (Sun 1/17, 1 PM). A mix of Chicago comics and recent expats, Heavyweight (Fri-Sat 1/8-1/9, 9 PM) teases the rambunctious side with a playful, embrace-anything approach to shows—and props. Previous performances have involved Power Wheels cars and thousands of little popper novelties. This year, TBD.
The strongest visiting troupes have Chicago history, too, as many are returning behind deserved buzz. Summer of Tears has canceled and will be replaced in the lineup by Team Submarine (Fri-Sat 1/15-1/16, 10 PM); since moving to New York two years ago, the former Chicago duo has polished its vaudeville-style banter and zany scene premises. Last Call Cleveland (Fri-Sat 1/15-1/16, 9 PM) offers a little of everything—songs, scenes, videos, performance art mocking striped shirts. But the New York duo Britanick (Fri-Sat 1/15-1/16, 11 PM) is truly ambitious: last year’s elaborate set included a time-travel story that flawlessly combined live stage work and taped segments.