“The Second City: Peach Drop, Stop and Roll”
8 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. 2:30 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays. 7:30 p.m.
Sundays. Through Dec. 13. $30-$40. Alliance Theatre, Hertz Stage, 1280 Peachtree St. N.E., Midtown. 404-733-5000, alliancetheatre.org
By Wendell Brock
Celebrity chef Richard Blais “admits he has no culinary knowledge whatsoever” and that he got all his recipes at Chick-fil-A. A segway tour guide chirpily concludes that downtown has become a cluster of abandoned buildings sitting next to “non-operational fountains.”
Three cheers for “The Second City: Peach Drop, Stop and Roll,” which dares to utter what we’ve all been thinking about some of our town’s sacred institutions. For the second year in a row, the Alliance Theatre has invited Chicago’s famed Second City to drag Atlanta through the brier-patch of past and present embarrassments. A follow-up to last fall’s “Too Busy to Hate… Too Hard to Commute,” the show sticks to the same format of sketch comedy and musical jingles, and uses the annual New Year’s Eve Peach Drop as a springboard to dispatch flaming arrows at such easy targets as Jane Fonda, Clark Howard and “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”
The 2008 installment featured a serenade to Mayor Shirley Franklin and her “big-ass flower.” This time, with the mayor’s race headed toward a Dec. 1 run-off, we hear that candidate Kasim Reed has been arrested for “trying to water Shirley’s flower,” while his opponent, Mary Norwood, gets nary a mention. (That may change, however, before the show’s Dec. 13 closing, and I won’t be a bit surprised if this cheeky little satire becomes the smash hit of the holiday season and has its run extended by a generous Santa.)
Though the slighty uneven “Peach Drop” is slow to build steam and is conspicuously lacking in the Second City’s trademark improv, it succeeds as a crazy quilt of throwaway gags and cringe-inducing nods to the complexities of race, religion and politics in our beloved and belittled metropolitan morass.
The Clermont Lounge and the Colonnade. The overkill of Christmas lights and $5,000 shopping sprees at Phipps Plaza. The shady superficiality of the “Real Housewives” and the shrinking of newspapers. For every poke at the “Nutcracker” or mention of the Pink Pig, there’s a stinging truth about the awkward tensions between rich and poor, black and white.
A Cobb County mother of three (Amy Roeder) and a Buckhead Betty (Amber Nash) shoot down an exasperated spokesman for the Beltline (Steven Westdahl) with their thinly disguised racism. A black kid (Anthony Irons) and a Jewish kid (Randall Harr), both on detention from class, find they have much more in common than they ever imagined.
In one terrifically twisted sketch, a white guy (Westdahl) returns to his hometown, where he is recognized by his old friends as an elderly black woman named Shirley Wentworth, and a white man is hidden inside the body of an elderly African-American (Irons). A time-traveling trio of connected pieces peeks into the lives of a “typical” family as they respond to disease, social change and various intoxicating beverages across three decades of the 20th century.
Director Matt Hovde (who shares a co-writing credit with Seth Weitberg) has assembled a fine ensemble. Returning cast members Irons and Roeder deliver superb work, and newcomer Niki Lindgren is excellent (as a cartoon style villainess, a Clermont Lounge cabaret act and a smoker with a heart as black as her lungs). Tied together with kudzu and chutzpah, the show maintains its energy until the proverbial midnight hour and proves that the city’s comedy drought, if ever there was one, is officially over.