REVIEW: Batterymouth: It Burns


Slow-Form Spontaneity


Dave Urlakis and Zack Whittington of Batterymouth: It Burns

Batterymouth presents
Batterymouth: It Burns
Written by Dave Urlakis and Zack Whittington
Directed by
E.J. Scott
at Second City’s de Maat Theatre, Chicago (map)
through Feb 18  |  tickets: $12  |  more info

Reviewed by Keith Ecker 

Batterymouth’s new long-form improv show at Second City’s de Maat Theatre is definitely in the top percentile of the dozens—or is it hundreds—of improv shows going on around town. This accomplishment is somewhat diminished by the fact that the vast majority of improv shows remind me of someone dizzily flipping through television channels, occasionally landing on an episode of Family Guy. Still, Batterymouth’s calm and grounded work is a refreshing serving of intelligent spontaneous comedy.

Before I get too far into my review, a note on reviewing improv. Obviously, no two shows are identical. It’s the nature of the art. You make up some characters and scenarios only to have your masterpiece lost forever in the ether. What remain are the performers and the form. So although the particulars of the show I saw don’t have baring on future performances, the quality of the talent does. And that’s what I’m here to tell you about.

Batterymouth is Dave Urlakis and Zack Whittington. Urlakis is an ensemble member at ComedySportz Chicago, a short-form improv institution that requires lightening-speed wit. He’s also a writer and performer for Best Church of God, one of the most intelligent sketch groups in the city. Whittington is a member of the sketch comedy group Long Pork, which recently performed at the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival.

The duo certainly has chemistry together, which is integral for a successful improv group. After all, how interesting would T.J. and Dave if their stage presence was akin to oil and water? Urlakis and Whittington share the focus of the scene, seamlessly giving and taking the lead. They are magnanimous improvisers who are willing to divert attention away from them for the benefit of the scene.

They’re also patient. Whereas many improv sets come off as a frantic barrage of randomness, theirs unfolds naturally and organically. The entire show I saw consisted of one 30-minute scene about a recently laid-off lawyer and his secretary. As is the Del Close method, the two slowly explored the many facets of their characters, creating unique discoveries that seemed to feel just as genuine to them as they did to us.

I also appreciated the fact that Batterymouth isn’t afraid to occasionally flirt with drama. There were tender moments during the show that arose from the characters’ shared feelings of loneliness. It’s this added layer that boosts a good improv scene to the level of greatness.

My only critique would have to be that after spending 30 minutes with the same characters in the same scene the audience gets a little fatigued. I wouldn’t mind escaping the original scenario for an intermission elsewhere. Perhaps we could see one of the protagonists in a different environment? Or maybe we could flash forward or backward in time?

Overall, Batterymouth: It Burns is an enjoyable way to spend your early evening. Additionally, the duo welcomes a different opening improv group each week (listed below). If you’re a fan of long form, especially that of the T.J. and Dave variety, check out this show.

Rating: ★★★

Batterymouth: It Burns, directed by E.J. Scott, runs Fridays at 7:30pm through February 18 at Second City’s de Matt Theater, Piper’s Alley, 1616 N. Wells. Tickets are $10 for students and $12 for general admission, and can be ordered by calling (312) 337-3992 or by visiting, and are available at the deMaat Theatre’s box office.


Opening Improv Groups

Fri, 1/21/11 at 7:30PM with Honor Student Breakfast
Fri, 1/28/11 at 7:30PM with Electric Lunchbox
Fri, 2/04/11 at 7:30PM with Wildcard
Fri, 2/11/11 at 7:30PM with Tina with the Weather
Fri, 2/18/11 at 7:30PM with Long Pork