Rahm Before the Storm: Second City presents Emanuel?s ever-mounting rage.

Get local news delivered straight to your phone

We can't make City Paper without you

$
$
$

Your contribution is appreciated.

The honeymoon hadn’t quite ended by last July, when Chicago’s Second City sketch troupe last decamped at Woolly Mammoth Theatre to perform Barack Stars: The Wrath of Rahm, their fleet-and-mostly-sure-footed sendup of our national weakness for demagoguery, even in the appealing form of the Windy City’s favorite political son. Nowadays? Our relationship with the commander-in-chief has settled into something closer to a clear-eyed, shared-bathroom marriage. Accordingly, these resourceful half-dozen comics have refreshed their playlist with chucklebait riffs on Scott Brown’s guerilla election to the Senate, Sarah Palin’s debut as a Fox News hand-reader, and the epithetical payload of the word “retard.” But they’re still subjecting our “world champion president of the United States,” as he’s introduced, to only gummy satire. This comes at the hands, or rather, voice, of Sam Richardson, whose cribbing of the president’s staccato delivery is uncanny. The crisply staged show’s real target remains the evolutionary adaptations (or mutations?) of a democracy shaped equally by a 24-hour news cycle and a fitfully interested electorate. So it’s no surprise from whence its choicest cuts come: Rahm Emanuel’s gaffe-compounding apologia for an ill-considered phrase and—especially—the global myopia of the American public. When Tim Sniffen’s laid-off Joe Twelve-Pack takes a ride in Richardson’s cab, the disparity in the woefulness of their woes becomes hilariously apparent, even though you see the jokes coming from an ocean away. (Other attempts to mine this same territory in song are less productive. Actually, all of the songs kinda suck.) Then there’s the eponymous wellspring of mirth, Rahm Emanuel, the president’s bad-cop right hand, hot of head and salty of tongue. As portrayed here, President Obama isn’t just calmly steering the ship of state through hostile waters—he’s also keeping Seth Weitberg’s Emanuel from bloodying his own staff when their ideas aren’t “hope-y” enough. The best recurring gag has to do with Emanuel’s artfully vulgar threats to make congressional Democrats, and Palin, dance to his tune. He doesn’t work quite the same asphyxiated shade of blue as Peter Capaldi in In the Loop, but he’s in the ballpark—or football pitch, as you like it. Even when the material is only municipally funny, the cast’s gymnastic poise wins out: Witness Lilly Allison and Brooke Bagnall’s free-associative parody of spy vs. spy code-speak, or the climactic, fully improvised debate. And if you can’t laugh at the notion of a Gitmo-based a cappella group called Habeas Chorus, then—all together now, America—the terrorists have won.