Promise Keepers, Losers Weepers, Second City. Audiences have come to expect Second City to take at least a few potshots at the latest fads and trends--from cigar smoking to rollerblading to Chicago's overcrowded nightclubs, little escapes the latest cast's sharpshooting. But that's the only predictable part of Second City's mostly intelligent, intricately sculpted 83rd revue. Director Jeff Richmond has obviously set his sights higher than empty belly laughs, opting for longer, more meditative scenes and keeping the quick gags and black-outs to a minimum.
The result, while not as edgy, throws some much needed attention to Second City's greatest resource: its strong female performers. A gifted triumvirate of women consistently steals the show. Rachel Hamilton and Stephnie Weir bring dead-on timing and dazzling range to the straighter roles, while Rachel Dratch, with her tiny stature and thunderous voice, absolutely bristles with raw comic energy.
Much of the scripted material is hit-and-miss. Sketches about Irish Republican Army fanaticism and a mainstream-impaired geek who can't relate to his coworkers provide an early kick start, but later scenes aren't nearly as clever or incisive. Thankfully, Ruby Streak's crisp musical direction and a charming first-half improvisation culled directly from the pages of the Sun-Times ensure that Promise Keepers, Losers Weepers doesn't level off too dramatically. --Nick Green