On the scene: Frankenmatt at the Second City. e.t.c.
"For those of you who couldn't get Mainstage tickets, we're glad you're here," Second City alumni Matt Craig announces at the beginning of "Frankenmatt," a two-person sketch revue that premiered at the Second City e.t.c. last night and also includes fellow alum Frank Caeti. It's true, the Second City. e.t.c. has long been considered the bastard brother to the Mainstage, but any Second City devotee will tell you that its shows are often more experimental and adventurous and "Frankenmatt" qualifies in those categories. A combination of both traditional and experimental sketch, "Frankenmatt" showcases two former Second City giants still at the top of their game even though they're both now slugging it out for bigger gigs in the City of Angels where each currently resides.
After a slight, vaudevillian number opens the brisk, 55-minute show, it really begins with a road trip back to Chicago, a journey home where we learn of Craig's love for grunge music and meet his jailbird uncle in a cutaway scene. It's hilarious stuff. In the next sketch we meet two hapless guys in a pastry shop, a showcase for Craig and Caeti's ability to play nuanced shades of dude. Another sketch examines what happens when a public school merges its arts and athletics, and in a nice jolt of right-brain nuttiness, we get a memorable heist scene where all actions can only be taken on a count of three. This segues into the evening's finest sketch, a casting call in which an actor is called upon to deliver his lines in the style of George Gaines of Punky Brewster and Police Academy Fame. Where do they come up with this stuff? Also gut-busting is a Southern courtroom scene just in time for the 50th anniversary of To Kill A Mockingbird. Not only do their Southern drawls impress, but here they buck Second City tradition by playing multiple characters and jumping roles. We wish we would see more of this at the regular e.t.c. and Mainstage shows.
If you've got tonight free, this is a show worth catching. While Caeti scored two seasons on MadTV, the truth is we're not seeing much of either of these guys right now so this is a real treat. Plus "Frankenmatt" proves that when genius improvisers leave Chicago, the genius stays with them.