Sunday, 6 January 2008

44 - American satirical cabaret 1963: "Second City" and "The Committee"

from "Revel with a Cause: Liberal satire in postwar America" by Stephen Kercher, 2006

Second City scenes addressing the dark, secret lives of middle-class families often evinced a mood of pathos and sentimentality. Pointing out the harmful effects of familial and intergen­erational misunderstanding was likewise the objective of "Family Re­union," a poignant, long scene performed during the Second City's 1963 "13 Minotaurs or Slouching toward Bethlehem" program. In this scene, in­formed by the painful experiences of at least one Second City performer, the mother, father, and brother of a young gay man named Warren pay him a long overdue visit in his Chicago apartment. Despite relaying mul­tiple hints about his homosexuality, Warren's conservative Midwestern family refuses to acknowledge his true identity. As Warren comes close to disclosing the truth about himself, his brother, father, and mother brusquely depart, ironically informing him, "If you've ever got anything bothering you that you want to talk over, you know where we are." (p166)

[Father played by Del Close; Mother by Ann Elder; Jack Burns; Dick Schaal]

The connection between the Committee and its predecessors was most apparent in the range of subjects it chose to address onstage. Paro­dies of folksinging groups and modern psychological jargon and comic scenes involving sex, seduction, and surreal confrontations with mechan­ical people were all part of the repertoire the Committee prepared for its Broadway run. Scenes about homosexuals and effeminate (often "intel­lectual") males were occasionally performed by the Compass, Second City, and Premise, so it was not a surprise that the Committee included one entitled "Bar Scene" in its program. Here the Committee comically depicted what might happen when a straight businessman (Larry Hankin) accidentally wanders into a San Francisco gay bar. Once again ratifying popular satire's thoroughly masculine orientation, the Committee here comically ridiculed (much to the audience's delight) Garry Goodrow's gay character. (p251 - this skit is recorded on "The Committee: An Original Cast Album", Reprise, 1964)

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