Words | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Words 

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Words, Second City Outreach Program and DMG Freedom, at Donny's Skybox Studio, through March 8. Not your usual Second City show, this second entry in the "Words" series combines actors, improvisers, dancers, and one very powerful poet in a celebration of Black History Month. As directed by Claudia Wallace and Dionna Griffin (who also improvise a short scene), the 70-minute program mixes satire--sketches that skewer the double standard for drug crimes, black-history heroes for Hispanics, a postage stamp for Buckwheat--with sheer silliness: Some Mo' Tenors perform "classical hip-hop," dancing erupts at a CTA station, a ghetto job applicant instantly cleans up her act when she sees her cute prospective boss, and a refuse-hauling husband refuses to take out his own garbage.

There are some wasted opportunities. A game-show spoof of racial profiling actually confirms stereotypes until it finally gets to the D.C. snipers. An improvised talk-show scene worked well at attacking the idea of a war on Iraq but never rose above the lame audience suggestions. And a lousy date with a cheapskate went on far longer than Blind Date producers would have allowed. But often enough a richly nuanced scene raises the stakes, as when sisters explore the dangers of generalization, declaring all lesbians vile except the ones you know. The big draw, however, is wordsmith Oscar Lester (aka Triple Blak), who delivers three fervent poems, one political and two romantic.

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