Paradigm Lost, Second City. Seven years ago Second City was just another aging Chicago institution dominated by old farts and young careerists who didn't seem to care that the quality of their product had slipped terribly. But in the new main-stage show, Paradigm Lost, the cast is loose, playful, and funny. Even the improv set was wonderful the night I saw it.
It would be easy to give director Mick Napier credit for this. After all, he's managed to put together a show that preserves the best of the tradition (short, hilarious, timely scenes performed in an intelligent, fast-paced comic style) and added lots of new twists (no blackouts between scenes, a wonderful two-story set, an even number of men and women, a surreal flashback, flash-forward structure that keeps the audience guessing). But clearly the whole culture at Second City has changed. The old Second City would never have given Napier a cast that was at once inspired, giving, funny, and free of that hotdogging fuck-you-I'm-going-to-be-the-next-Shelley Long spirit that ruined its shows in the 80s. Even Scott Adsit, clearly the hottest and funniest male on the main stage right now, plays like he's just another member of the team. Here's hoping the old paradigm for Second City stays lost. --Jack Helbig