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Soul Front 

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Soulfront, Second City Outreach Program, at Second City, Skybox Studio Theatre. "Exploring themes of race, sex, and justice," runs Second City's publicity, "Soulfront hopes to attract an audience as diverse as its cast." Time was when these subjects were the province of all satirical comedy, but nowadays they appear to be suitable only to the "multiracial" product of Second City's Outreach Program.

The talented performers enjoying their four weeks of fame in the attic of Piper's Alley need no such condescension, however. True, the sketch in which a white man lectures a black woman on her ethnic heritage has been a comedy staple since 1967, another depicting two aging disco queens is sweet but pointless, and a third in which a Salvation Army bell ringer goes postal is facile and tasteless. But a Kwanza fable about holiday shopping narrated as an African folktale, complete with drums and dancers, approaches high parody, and the sketch in which an interracial couple on a blind date find harmony in the music of their different churches is positively brilliant in its unexpected logic. So is an improvised anthem in which Brandon Johnson and Martin Garcia trade riffs with a vocal virtuosity that transcends their frivolous topic--just as Claudia Michelle Wallace and Garcia transcend theirs in the blind-date sketch.

Whether this refreshingly original material will move downstairs remains to be seen. Likewise, how it would play to its projected "diverse" audience. On the night I attended, however, the 98 percent Caucasian audience laughed uproariously.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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