PAPA’S GOT A BRAND NEW BAGHDAD, Second City Outreach, at Donny’s Skybox Studio. Flimsy characterizations are often to blame when improv doesn’t work. But that’s not the problem with Second City Outreach’s mediocre new offering. Pasha Stanford has the kind of Silly Putty malleability that sells her big reactions, particularly playing a naive neighbor opposite Jason Hightower’s genial serial killer. And Anthony Irons is convincing as Bush outlining something called “Operation Handbasket,” a plan to rid hell of Satan.
No, the real culprit here is weak writing. Though the show’s sketches are politically astute, fresh, and socially aware, and delivered with tight transitions and good energy levels under the direction of John Hildreth, the material just isn’t that funny. The ensemble isn’t holding back, and scenes depicting guns in the hands of schoolchildren and racial profiling are dark and pointed, but the laughs are fleeting.