YOU ONLY SHOOT THE ONES YOU LOVE is for people who want to learn about the roots of the kind of cutting edge, improvisational theater that is the Fringe Festival at its best. Jeffrey Sweet literally wrote the book on Chicago’s hugely influential Second City comedy troupe and shares some of the most interesting things he learned while researching it in his solo Fringe show. Things like that the improv tradition of asking audience members for prompts for short sketches originated with the bar that was Second City’s first home needing shows to run longer so they could sell more beer. Or that Second City founder Paul Sills got the idea for theater games from his mother’s children’s theater program at Chicago’s famous Hull settlement house. (Sweet says Sills’ mom used the games to cure kids’ self-consciousness on-stage.)Given his age and accomplishments, Sweet can be forgiven the show’s occasional self-indulgences — as when he brags about being ushered in to a sold-out Second City show ahead of a famous comic, and takes at least partial credit for the careers of everyone from Stephen Colbert to Amy Poehler (because they trained in theater troupes started by people who read his book).
That book, Something Wonderful Right Away, came out in 1978 and Sweet debuted this show in 2011 in New York City. And so Sweet spends a good quarter of the 2019 Philly Fringe edition explaining who theater people Sills, Viola Spolin, Del Close et al. were and why we should care. This show will be most enjoyable to theater buffs and 70-plus-year-olds who already know.
[O’Neal’s Pub, 611 S. Third Street] September 7–16, 2019; fringearts.com/event/you-only-shoot-the-ones-you-love