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Second City And Hubbard Street Dance Reunite With Hilarious Results In 'The Art Of Falling'

By Michelle Meywes Kopeny in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 13, 2016 7:50PM

Carisa Barreca with dancers Jesse Bechard, Emilie Leriche, Michael Gross, Alice Klock, and Kevin J. Shannon in Hubbard Street + The Second City’s The Art of Falling. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.

The Art of Falling begins with a video intro that gets right to the laughable side of contemporary dance. Director Billy Bungeroth jokes that he wanted his next project to have half-naked performers who will work for months on end for just four performances. Well, the joke's on them, because the original 2014 production proved so popular it was brought back for a second, extended run, underway now at Harris Theater.

The unique collaboration unites The Second City and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and it evolved from an initial concept of a comical "guide to dance" after the two groups started workshopping together. See, improv isn't exclusive to comedy, it's an integral part of dance and music composition, and when put together, amazing things can happen. It sounds cliche, but it's true: this show will make you laugh, cry and give you chills. It takes the concept of falling and interprets it in many unexpected and delightful ways.

The Art of Falling is a medley of three different tales of falling: in love, into a dream and out of the sky. But the creativity doesn't stop at the storylines. There's inventive office choreography that creates human mail bins, soda machines and even a Nazi stapler, plus an impressive rolling-desk-chair dance that could be the 9-to-5 version of Swan Lake. The program also includes interludes between scenes, like the Second City-esque improv segment led by Tawny Newsome, in which dancers interpret queues from the audience (ours happened to be river otters, combined with the TV show The Americans and a broken refrigerator), and not to spoil the surprise, but there's also a hilarious, not-so romantic encounter with a blow-up doll set to Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game."

Most of the original cast returns for the reprise, including Tim Mason (also head writer), Carisa Barreca and even Hubbard Street Artistic Director Glen Edgerton, whose return to the stage is always a welcome surprise. As Edgerton himself says in the piece, when we go to the theater we expect the thrill of seeing something extraordinary, or someone falling flat on their face. With The Art of Falling, we're lucky to get a little bit of everything.

The encore run of The Art of Falling continues through Sunday, June 19 at Harris Theater. Tickets start at $30.