Cupid Has A Heart On at Stage 773 | Comedy Review
In an early number last Saturday at the offical press opening of Cupid Has A Heart On, the long-running musical sketch show that recently moved venues from iO to Stage 773, a trigger-happy plastic surgeon concocts a plan to completely make over his female patient. A trim here and a lift there is all she needs to be desired. We're meant to empathize. Eventually, doctor and patient break into song and the number ends hilariously with bits of plastic appendages (purchased at nearby Uncle Fun, I'm guessing) being flung at the audience. It's a palatable number in what turns out to be a very palatable show. But if I had my way, I would give this date-night offering a nip/tuck.
First, a few kudos. The space is great. After a decade run at iO's Del Close Theater, it's satisfying to see the Cupid Players (directed by Brian Posen, who is at the helm of Stage 773) come home to its new cabaret space. The material is frequently bawdy and the intimate Cabaret Theater allows the performers to get in the faces of the audience, which they frequently do. Another plus is that Cupid nimbly crosses musical genres. There were genuinely great vocals at work in a scene where a couple does right by each other in exchange for sexual favors. The number is sung in the style of a torchy Broadway Act I finale and it was a higlight for me. Ditto a sketch in which the perfect date is sidelined by the inevitable request, "Let's just be friends." We've all heards those words before but have we ever heard them sung in the style of a barbershop quartet? "You're like a brother to her," they hum in gorgeous harmony. It's fantastic.
But after ten years, Cupid is starting to feel like a dated product and one aimed at tourists. I didn't see much of my own single life reflected in the show. Few and far between were references to social media, online dating, Internet hookups and sexting. The show feels a little old-fashioned, as if the world hasn't changed much in a decade's time (oh, but it has!). One number is about whipped husbands, and while it would probably kill in Downers Grove (that's a place, right?), in Chicago it just doesn't describe the married friends I've observed. And would you believe that a show about sex and love that plays in the heart of Lakeview contains only a fleeting nod to the gay community?
Cupid could also stand to be more Chicago-specific. Aside from a couple local references to White Castle and John Barleycorn (part of an admittedly spirited number about the walk of shame all single people take), this didn't feel at all like a Chicago show. These characters might as well be meeting up, hooking up and breaking up in Des Moines. I recognized most of the cast and these longtime denizens of our city should be able to fix this in a pinch. I hope they do.
Cupid Has A Heart On is a breeze to watch. I was never bored once. But it also feels a little milquetoast, like the kind of show you would pair with dinner at nearby Mia Francesca. I'm sure the Cupid Players have big plans for Stage 773 and I hope they succeed in that space. But I also know that Second City had high hopes for its tepid Sex and the Second City: A Dot Comedy. Remember that show? I didn't think so.