“The Second City Does Arizona…” – Arizona Theatre Company

This review aired on KBAQ May 3, 2010


Arizona Theatre Company, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

While you’ll enjoy Arizona Theatre Company’s world premiere comedy, “The Second City Does Arizona, or Close But No Saguaro,” don’t expect to be doubled over with laughter.

This specially commissioned work is not theater; it’s just loosely linked comedy bits. Some segments laugh at Arizona’s weirdness but the local stuff, while mildly amusing, isn’t unexpected. Quite frankly Chicago’s highly-touted Second City troupe doesn’t find anything unusually funny with our state. You’ll get expected jokes already heard in many other forums.

Far funnier are some of Second City’s tried and true routines that the famous comedy company has perfected for years. These regular Second City bits are inserted between the strained Arizona jokes.

Most surprising is why ATC, a renowned national theater company that does remarkable productions like the recent revealing “The Glass Menagerie,” would even include this comedy shenanigans as one of its six season plays. This show would have been better as an extra attraction.

To create this work, the Second City troupe made a fast trip to our state where they collected dirt. Unfortunately, our foibles, ridiculous deeds, and bizarre political climate are already well known around the country where we have become the brunt of so many jokes. It’s too bad that the Second City people didn’t really find some interesting twists and some unique stories we haven’t heard before.

What you get in “The Second City Does Arizona…” are the typical jokes about our Governor, Joe Arpaio, Tent City, Sun City, photo radar cameras, snowbirds, our obsession with golf, our excessive heat, John McCain, Mesa Mormons, and that notorious ostrich farm outside Tucson. And talk about overusing some of our amusing things, you’ll see so many photo radar jokes that you’ll scream out enough long before the two-hour show ends.

Far more effective are things that Second City has used to great comedic effect like a guy’s relationship with a blow up doll or a spelling bee bit that have nothing special about Arizona. The troupe also uses audience members to gather some rather mediocre improvisation bits. Maybe the opening night audience didn’t provide anything good. The six-person Second City company works hard and has limited success in making us laugh but the writers and performers do best with their standard routines. Even the show’s meandering pacing could be sharper.

“The Second City Does Arizona…” is amusing but disappointing and is certainly not an auspicious end to ATC’s usually exemplary season. “The Second City Does Arizona…” continues through May 16. For tickets, call the Arizona Theatre Company box office at 602-256-6995 or order online at www.arizonatheatre.org.

Grade: C