REVIEW: Messing With A Friend @ Chicago Improv Festival


Messing With A FriendSusan Messing and Mark Sutton have rightfully earned their spots in the improv hall of fame. Susan Messing is a natural guide. She sees openings where others may not and Sutton is a great supporter. He excels at gifting, callbacks, heightening and makes strong choices. They bounce off each other so well and that’s why this show was such an improvised delight.

Messing opened by thanking the audience and casually saying, “we’re just gonna fuck around for a little bit” and started the show with the suggestion “seahorse.” Messing and Sutton both digressed to elementary school children trying to help speed up the evolution of sea monkeys by dumping them out on the ground. Messing expressed her concern with this tactic by saying she had tried it with a “fish last week and it didn’t turn out so well.” To which Sutton replied, “that was just the fish resistant to adaptation” and like that adaptation became the theme of the show. Every scene subtly became about adapting to a new situation.

Next Messing became Diane, a middle-aged, lesbian, Hanes underwear line-worker (#62) who refused to get fired by Dirk (Sutton). When questioning “why,” Sutton informed her that using condoms instead of tupperware to bring food (particularly pudding) into the workplace was inappropriate. She justified it because she kept lending out her Gladware and no one was returning it. So she used condoms – naturally.

Messing then became a 13 1/2 year old in detention schooling her professor in life philosophies. My favorite line was “What I’ve done can’t possibly be as bad the life you’re living right now.” She reminds him of how his wife left him and how’s he’s currently using his Yale degree to teach detention and live out of a Holiday Inn Express.

Sutton and Messing are a married couple getting ready for a night out on the town when Sutton confesses he wants another baby. Messing launches into a controlled and emotional explanation of how she is on Weight Watchers trying to lose her previous baby weight so he’ll want to have sex with her again. It was interesting watching the roles reversed as she wanted to “have intercourse for intercourse sake” and he wanted to have sex to have a baby. She replied, “You’re so Catholic.”

Then we see Sutton as a bad son with a “bouquet of regret” (Catholic guilt much?) mourning at his mother’s grave. Messing pulls up on her segway and they discuss how he was, indeed, a bad son and then then bounce back to his mother in a nursing home and his selfish ways. He tried to convince her that this was what she wanted but she assured him it was not. That they had pee-pads for humans and it smelled like death. Messing, as the mother, says, “If they created a community we could get involved in, we’d all be naked and fucking” and that line slingshots the entire show back through all of their scenes, tying them all to one another as they go.

Back through the segway and the grave and into the Hanes underwear office. Dirk and Diane ended up talking how Diane uses a dental dam instead of condoms and how’s Dirk is “so Catholic.” They look down to sign the resignation papers and suddenly they morph into the elementary school kids, who decide that the seamonkeys on the ground aren’t quite evolving the way they thought they would. Sutton sits down and Messing becomes the professor’s wife who left him. Making many of the same comments as the 13 1/2 year old girl from detention. Sutton pleads with her to let him enjoy just one thing in his life and she pulls up a chair to front center and becomes the 13 1/2 year old girl in detention. Sutton continues to lecture her on how she should do what she loves so she doesn’t become miserable like him. She takes out the pudding from her backpack and hands it to him, “I think you need this more than I do” she says. He thanks her and wishes her well and that he doesn’t want to see her 30 years from now at “some bullshit factory.” Lights.

I mean, thank you. Right? That’s what you say when someone gives you a gift. What a perfect little package with so much punch, yet tied up together with a big red bow on top. Susan Messing is a genius. She played seven different characters and it was like she put on a new face for every single one. It was her face, obviously, but it was a different one every time. How does she do it? I’ve never seen that before. She’s so quick. She pours out these nonstop lucid trains of thought and you find it hard to believe thess characters aren’t real. It was like watching a waltz. It was fluid, rhythmic, supportive and beautiful. Susan Messing, what a stud.

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posted on by Kiley Peters posted in Chatter, Reviews

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