The six members of the cast of Great Altercations stands huddled in a clump center stage. They are smiling and making various gestures (air guitar, fists, arms crossed over chest, hands waving in air, etc.)
The ensemble of Great Altercations at Second City e.t.c. Credit: TImothy M. Schmidt

There are half a dozen exceptionally talented individuals in the new Second City e.t.c. revue, Great Altercations. But that turns out to be a problem: they remain individuals rather than forming an ensemble. Nor is this inability to cohere merely a lack of performance rhythm: as the creation of sketch comedy requires collaboration during improvisation, a failure to gel as a group means the show’s material is weak. I look forward to seeing each of these performers once they conclude their extended audition for Saturday Night Live and move into some aspect of show business which relies less on inter-cast communication and more on brilliant displays of each person’s particular talents.

Great Altercations
Open run: Thu 8 PM, Fri-Sat 7 and 10 PM, Sun 4 PM, Second City e.t.c., 230 W. North, 312-337-3992,, $30-$83

These observations aren’t meant to minimize the genuine gifts revealed. Mark Campbell is a superb physical comic, whether portraying a terrified carpool passenger or a bedbug. Claudia Martinez is wonderfully appealing in children’s roles, such as a child who won’t go to sleep and one whose mother disrupts her birthday party by expressing her wish that she’d had an abortion. (And there it is again: it may be a two-person scene but it’s basically a monologue.) As the mother, and later as a phony therapist, Laurel Krabacher gets to show her considerable acting chops. 

But the show, directed by Jerry Minor, isn’t much of anything: it isn’t cultural critique, and it isn’t political satire. And most of all, it isn’t funny. One effort to be all three falls spectacularly flat: a scene in a car (One of three! There should be a limit) with parents in the front and obnoxious kids in the back, whose punchline—delivered by the father—is “I don’t care how far we have to drive, we’re getting that abortion.” Thud.