There are no second acts in America, F. Scott Fitzgerald once said. Syd Arthur, comedian John Kapelos's fictional alter ego, sets out to prove Fitzgerald wrong in a musical one-man tribute to himself. But as this rock 'n' roll wunderkind turned empty, middle-aged millionaire performs his evening's worth of career hits karaoke-style, he proves that some performers don't even get a full act. Their inspiration fizzles long before intermission, and only momentum and ego keep them going. Not that Syd seems to notice. He's too busy making love to himself every time he wraps his lips around the microphone and belts out another knockoff hit of a knockoff hit. Always chasing a trend, Syd never wrote the same kind of song twice; his repertoire stretches from bad swing-era ballads to self-pitying confessional songs to bubblegum tunes so sickening the Archies would have refused to record them. The beauty of Kapelos's tongue-in-cheek show is that he never lets his mask slip. From the first note to the last bathetic flourish, this Second City alum is Syd--smarmy, self-involved, self-motivated, and self-impressed, a second-rate talent in a field that loves to ignore or screw the talented, preferring the second-raters who just hang in there and play the game. It's a testament to Kapelos's talent as a comic actor that he lets us in on every one of Syd's games without ever telling us anything directly. The Second City, Donny's Skybox Studio, Piper's Alley, 1608 N. Wells (fourth floor), 312-337-3992. December 27 through 31: Saturday-Wednesday, 8 and 10 PM. $15. --Jack Helbig
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Jay Spence.