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'Not Working' Works at Second City e.t.c.

By Suzy Evans in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 1, 2009 7:15PM

2009_07_Working.jpg Frankly, we’re sick of hearing about the economy. And when the new show at Second City e.t.c. opened singing, “The economy blows,” we settled in ready to tally the number of times the actors poked fun at the economic down turn. Thankfully, we didn’t get very far.

While the recession theme runs throughout "Studs Terkel’s Not Working," the show chooses not to focus on our economic woes. (The Second City mainstage has already done shows such as "Brother, Can You Spare Some Change?" and "America: All Better!" which focused enough on the economy.) So parking meters, rising sales tax, corrupt politicians, and the crime rate served as excellent comedic alternatives.

A tribute to Chicago icon Studs Terkel, whose famous book Working chronicles daily life in different careers, this show mourns the loss of “old Chicago” - when Macy’s was Marshall Fields and the Willis Tower was the Sears Tower and the CTA Red line didn’t smell like urine. While Wicked-composer Stephen Schwartz wrote the musical Working based on Terkel’s same book, this show does not reinvent Schwartz’s interpretation. (Plus Schwartz along with other composers, such as Lin Manuel Miranda, had already did that this year in San Diego.)

The best parts of the show are when cast members force uncooperative or begrudgingly willing attendees to supply the humor for sketches such as a Guy Noire-esque mystery or a catchy musical number. Other favorites of ours were the Magic Kingdon’s Hall of Presidents, where notable U.S. presidents satirize themselves in robotic form. (“Barack, I don’t remember you being so black.”) Or the double-decker bus tour of Chicago starring a German fan of The Apprentice (You're killed!) and a Steven Hawking-like character. (Imagine his computerized voice pronouncing Blagojevich. Just thinking about it makes us laugh.) Basically, if you love or hate anything about Chicago, as we certainly do, this show is for you because the stuff you love to hate makes the perfect comedic fare.

Studs Terkel's Not Working runs at the Second City e.t.c. stage (1608 North Wells Street, 2nd Floor of Piper's Alley) through August 19. Tickets range from $20-$25.