Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Review of City of Nutterly Love at Philadelphia Theatre Company

First published in EDGE Philadelphia

Philadelphians aren't known for taking too kindly to people from other cities picking on our hometown. (Most of our sports fans can't even stand it when someone shows up wearing a different team's jersey.) So I'm sure many local theatergoers felt a mixture of reticent excitement and anticipation when Philadelphia Theatre Company (PTC) announced City of Nutterly Love, a collaborative spoof of all things Philadelphia done in conjunction with Chicago's Second City sketch comedy troupe.

Like anthropologists in the wild, Second City writers TJ Shanoff and Ed Furman descended upon Philadelphia a few months ago for research. The group of seven performers-Second City's Katie Rich, Rachel Miller, Edgar Blackmon, and accompanist/musical director Bryan Dunn; and Comedy Sportz veterans Mary Carpenter Eoin O'Shea, and David Dritsas-loaded both barrels with snowballs and Tastykakes and took aim.

And who knew our town contained so many easy targets for humor?

The Philadelphia sports fans and their teams got slaughtered (though the Charles Barkley joke seemed too retro, especially considering Iverson only left a few years ago), and the six actors mildly skewered Mummers participants (arguing over the color of their codpieces), Comcast, and local rockers Hall n Oates. Though how did Rocky Balboa escape without mention?

One particularly funny sketch had an unimpressed tour guide ragging on the museum's snooty art collection, renaming Picasso's "Three Guitars" as "Triangles Puking on Squares," and flagging the Renoir collection as "Naked Chubby Chick Age."

Throughout, the group's sharply timed delivery and quick wit impressed. During the Mummer's sketch, the mention of a "Drexel girl's panties" got a lot of screams, to which one of the troupe quickly fired "I think that girl's here tonight), and with the exception of the lackluster songs (particularly bad: the one lambasting our love-hate relationship with Donovan McNabb), I laughed until the muscles in my face hurt.

But the laughs came cheap. The writers culled almost every other skit from the Second City archives, massaging the material with Philly references so they could play here (the museum skit could rip on any city's art collection). And while I appreciated the original take on the famed Ben Franklin impersonator's horrific origin, what's a skit about a nun with a dirty record collection got to do with Philly?

Don't get me wrong, the archived material provided most of the laughs-whether ripping on cougars chasing cub-age tail while downing "Ambien and Jaeger" bombs or a completely honest job interviewee telling a prospective employer "I just want to bone your hot secretary." But the evening's most subversive piece only managed to poke polite fun at the Larry Mendte-Alycia Lane news scandal. I expected far more insightful satire from the nation's premier comedy troupe and didn't find it at PTC.

Instead, the night consisted of shoutouts (including PBR references, though not Yuengling) at local celebs (Stephen Starr) and landmarks (Boscov's?), with two words-"Phillies" followed by "repeat"-eliciting the most hoots and hollers from the audience. The rest capitalized on the resentfulness of New York's Sixth Borough for her bigger neighbor, and some Main Line snubbing ("if you move to the city, where will you park your horse?).

If patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels, than provincialism is the mark of cheap comedy. 1812 does a much better job subverting the locals each Christmas, and none of these skits could hold a candle to the Philadelphia color infused into Patsy, Jen Childs' Shunk Street soap-boxer.

If you're never going to Chicago, see them here. At least they didn't just focus on the tourist crap.

Philadelphia Theatre Company presents City of Nutterly Love; playing at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 S. Broad St., Philadelphia. Through July 26. Tickets: $34 to $39. Information: 866-985-0420 or

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I thought this show was hilariously funny. Sure, it had some hits and misses, as all sketch and improv shows do (even the vaunted 1812 falls flat occasionally). I find this review disappointing in that it gives little mention to the wonderfully tight and funny cast, who came up with some great characters and improvisation. I also am tired of having Jen Childs mentioned in the review of a show in which she does not appear (this is the second such one for Nutterly Love). She is a great actress and asset to the Philly theater scene, but let's focus on the actual people in the cast. Unlike most people, I don't find Patsy that interesting or funny.