‘Don’t Quit Your Daydream’: Second City show not always funny, but still fun

Humor is sporadic in mainstage revue that surrounds likable cast with theatrical razzle-dazzle

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Kiley Fitzgerald (from left), Evan Mills, Andy Bolduc, Jordan Stafford, Julia Morales and Claire McFadden star in “Don’t Quit Your Daydream” on Second City’s mainstage.

Timothy M. Schmidt

It’s clear at first sight that Second City is done with the spartan stages of old, bare but for a couple of bentwood chairs. Recent mainstage shows have been embellished with visually rich sets and video screens, and the new “Don’t Quit Your Daydream” further ups the theatrical ante with shelves full of framed photos, sculptures and other knickknacks, handpicked by the cast and bathed in colored lights.

The razzle-dazzle only intensifies as the show starts and the actors dash through rapid-fire vignettes of dance, magic and burlesque, hurried along by quick flashes and pounding beats. The tone is set for a revue of crisp, constant stagecraft, keeping the dopamine pumping with blazes of light, deep rumbles of bass, even torrents of bubbles.

All these technical trappings elevate the work of a highly talented cast, under the direction of Carisa Barreca, a writer and performer for several high-profile Second City projects. But where the show falters is in its wit. It’s only sporadically funny, and too often the glitter is in service of material lacking in charm or bite.

‘Don’t Quit Your Daydream’

Don’t Quit Your Daydream

When: Open run

Where: Second City, 1616 N. Wells

Tickets: $39 and up

Info: (312) 337-3992; secondcity.com

Run time: Two hours including 15-minute intermission

Whatever humor is to be found in a man falling in love with the imaginary friend of his childhood, for example, is not evident in “Daydream’s” frantic take, which features more air French kissing than anyone should have to see. (The first-act scene at least pays off with a fun second-act epilogue.) And when a mom hosts her son’s friends for their 10-year class reunion and proceeds to make out with them all, it’s more unsettling than amusing.

Plenty of would-be wisecracks just induce groans: “We do have a precedent! That’s Joe Biden!” Not to mention the obvious moment when most of the room knows the punchline is about to be Ye’s “Gold Digger.”

Racial issues are very much on the table, touched on in superficial but still entertaining ways. A school speaker (Claire McFadden) finds her presentation on empathy derailed when one white student (Andy Bolduc) seems never to have suffered any indignities. Bolduc also draws scrutiny as a man lobbying the Black Heaven angel (Julia Morales) to let him go there instead of the boring white version, with its complicated board games and its Mumford & Sons.

This cast’s old pro is the irresistibly watchable Evan Mills, now in his third mainstage revue, and he’s again using his limber frame, expressive eyeballs and floppy hair to full advantage. One improvised character, a background actor who re-creates his scenes in movies suggested by the audience, doesn’t go anywhere but gets by on sheer charisma. Better is a wistful song Mills sings as himself, listing random mysteries he has yet to figure out.

Bolduc has the night’s showiest solo piece, roaming the crowd as a macabre business consultant immaculately equipped with walking stick, cape and ruffles. (No ratty backstage thrift-store finds for this crew.) In a menacing growl, he advises clients on cultivating spies and executing rivals.

Versatile enough to play a ghost whisperer, a post-menopausal Barbie and a pug, Kiley Fitzgerald also wears a nun’s wimple to sing bluntly about teens’ birth control failures. McFadden is front and center in the night’s silliest scene, as a gleeful wooden doll brought to life by some freaked-out frat boys.

The only newcomer to the stage is the capable touring company alum Jordan Stafford, who plays it deadpan in the first act before cutting loose after intermission, contorting himself every which way as a man who seems demonically possessed after quitting therapy. In a Second City rarity, he has a solo scene playing two roles, a son and a wry, dying father, poignant with just a few low-key laughs.

Stafford later teams with Mills for a graceful dance number as teens flush with new love. Mills’ character, we learned earlier, was posing as straight for his suspicious girlfriend (McFadden) in a scene so electric with adolescent emotion that it briefly morphs into soap opera, and then noir.

The rewards of “Don’t Quit Your Daydream” come in seeing uniformly likable actors performing with precision and packaged with sparkle. If not always a success comedically, it’s a fulfilling experience theatrically.

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