This two-month showcase of Chicago sketch comedy features more than 30 local ensembles--some well established, some new to the scene--representing a remarkable range of styles and viewpoints, with two to four groups sharing the bill at each performance. Participating troupes include Stir-Friday Night!, Annoyance Productions, Weaselicious, Brick, ÁSalsation!, GayCo Productions, the WNEP Theater, and many others; the festival is presented by Posin' at the Bar.
Sketch Fest runs through March 2 at the Theatre Building, 1225 W. Belmont. Performances are Thursdays at 7 PM, Fridays-Saturdays at 7 and 9:30 PM, and Sundays at 6 PM. Admission is $18 per show, $26 for a Friday or Saturday double bill, and $75 for a festival pass. For reservations, call 773-327-5252.
Following is the schedule for January 24-31.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 24
Wrap the Chair Productions, The Roosters Pist, and Off the Radar Productions
Wrap the Chair Productions presents Hey Love, Where You At?, a set of comic monologues. The Roosters Pist cites 1950s motorcycle and rock movies as the inspiration for its show Varicose Veins. Also on the bill: Off the Radar Productions in The Night of Naughty Narcissism, a mix of vaudeville and music that blurs the cast's onstage performances and backstage blunders. 7 PM.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 25
Rooftop Players and Six Pack Productions
The Rooftop Players, an ensemble of Second City Conservatory graduates, employ song, dance, and improvisation as well as scripted material. They're joined by Craig Uhlir and Jim Carlson in Six Pack Productions' Those Guys. 7 PM.
Broad Comedy and Teenage Sports Parade
Teenage Sports Parade, an all-male ensemble presented by Annoyance Productions, shares the bill with the all-female troupe Broad Comedy, which performs its show Gynecology. 9:30 PM.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 26
Sirens and Paper Monkeys
The all-female comedy group Sirens presents Chicken Scratch, a program of character-based improvisation. "Most improv troupes use audience suggestions, but the Sirens have invented their own form. Each of the nine women has a binder filled with monologues she's written and that no other ensemble member has seen. She picks one, reads it in character, and her cohorts offer several sketches riffing on the underlying themes. . . . The monologues are hit-and-miss. . . . But the talented ensemble twists the ideas in the monologues into fresh, exciting comedy about relationships, family, sex, and beauty. The sketches are so perfect in their specificity . . . and boast such well-realized characters that they sometimes resemble scenes from a well-written play. There are some outrageous moments . . . and many ribald ones, but they arise naturally from the characters. It turns out the Sirens are as enticing as their name suggests," says Reader critic Jennifer Vanasco. Also on the bill is Paper Monkeys, whose show The Monkey in Winter combines live and video segments. 7 PM.
Stir-Friday Night! and Maximum Party Zone
The Asian-American comedy troupe Stir-Friday Night! performs Woktoberfest! "[The] material is . . . sharp, intelligent, and wickedly funny. . . . Under the direction of Brian Posen, these guys segue from one blackout to another with the speed and grace of Second City," says Reader critic Jack Helbig. Also on the program is Maximum Party Zone, a three-man show that "tackles the ups and downs of revolutions and anarchists and miscarriages of justices," according to a publicity statement. 9:30 PM.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 27
Allman Co., Funny How, Monkey Etiquette Institute, and Backrow
The Allman Co.'s B.D. Class presents a twisted take on American history as seen through the eyes of four "behaviorally challenged" high school students. Also on the bill: Funny How in Postpartum Recession, the Backrow in Your Fan Club, and the Monkey Etiquette Institute in More for Your Monkey! 6 PM.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 31
Eclectic Muse Productions, Weaselicious, and Wrap the Chair Productions
Eclectic Muse Productions seeks to present character-driven sketch comedy from a female perspective in Explosive Diary. Also on the bill are Wrap the Chair Productions (see listing for Thursday, January 24) and Weaselicious in Weaselicious V: Anti-Kamadie. 7 PM.