The Seven Deadly Sins is a storytelling series based on, you guessed it, the seven deadly sins. The show is now in its second year, and takes place on the second Tuesday of every month at Café Mustache in Logan Square. Last Tuesday, we saw a grab bag of comics and storytellers confess their sins to the crowded café.
For the Sunday school skippers among us, the deadly seven include greed, sloth, envy, lust, pride, gluttony, and wrath. Since alcohol does not appear on this particular list, I ordered a Malort-based “Surprisingly Good,” and pulled up a stool. There were a couple of seats left when I arrived a few minutes before eight, but if you want to score a table I would get there at least fifteen minutes early.
Soon after I sat down, bubbly host/producer Angela Vela took the stage to get things rolling. She warned us of possible audience participation and introduced the Wheel of Sin, which she spun to decide who would go next. Our first sinner, Kristin Clifford of the Lincoln Lodge, shared her adventures in lust.
After hitting it off with a cute guy in a bar, Clifford blurted out an invitation to an upcoming fondue party. It’s an adorable date idea, if you are actually having a party or know how to make fondue. She scribbled a quick email to recruit her friends, sent out the evites and bought a registry’s worth of matching china. A warning to those of you planning your first fondue party, it turns out that gruyere cheese is both expensive and unavoidable. Although the object of her desire did not take one bite of the appetizer spread, they later enjoyed water and mints while making out to SNL reruns.
Next up was the hilarious Jeremy Owens, producer of You’re Being Ridiculous, with a tale of pride. His story unfolded in the small town of Stuttgart, AR, pronounced without so much as a hint of its European namesake. As a high school hooligan, Owens found his niche in the high school yearbook and promptly staged a coup, taking titles from the popular and handing them to the worthier, saving “Best Citizen” for himself. The real reward was the look on the faces of the editors Tiffany and Tara, who emerged from their tanning beds in shock that so much had happened while they baked unaware.
At this point Vela quizzed an audience member on her last deadly sin. She confessed to envy, and comic Tom Wisdom took his turn at the mic. A simmering cross-country friendship led to love, or at least some serious butt-touching and poetry confessions. Blinded by the excitement of a trip together, our hero ignored all the warning signs when his girl brought a “friend” and future husband along on their trip to an Icelandic music festival. Thanks to the magic of Instagram, Wisdom rests assured that he dodged a bullet of never-ending brunch.
Melody Kamali of Comedy Sportz stole the show with a beautiful, horrible tribute to gluttony. She had the audience rolling with the story of returning to Chicago after a long and un-medicated family vacation, armed with only a handful of assorted pills from a friend. During a quick pit stop at Target, she realized that the guy checking her out was in fact an undercover shoplifting officer. So began an epic rampage of tag ripping and candy unwrapping, followed by tackling and handcuffing. Contrary to popular belief, Kamali explained that jail is not at all like Orange is the New Black, although if you are lucky, a nice lesbian cop will smuggle candy into your bag for the cold cab ride home.
The wheel landed on wrath, and Caryn Ruby of the Caryn & Natalie Show read a story of the adventures of the twisted world of dating in Hollywood. Intrigued by tales of friends whose dates lavished them with gifts and took care of the rent, she started seeing a doctor. A telltale bottle of a certain medication revealed that despite what he had told her, he was also seeing a doctor. Cue the wrath.
Producer Vela took the stage for a story about greed, featuring an ensemble of neighborhood mail thieves led by a bad-ass overall clad bike stealer. Their reign ended as they dug up mail from the bushes and turned over the hoarded envelopes to police. Years later Vela asked her mom about the incident, and got a sweet, reassuring reflection. The icing on the cake? Her mom was in the audience.
Our final sinner and the host of Do Not Submit, Dana German, gave a free-form meditation on sloth. She opened with a Nicholas Cage quote and launched into the difficulties of packing a bag for the end of the world, including the essentials of a sharp machete and infinite supply of pens. She concluded that despite our fascination with the apocalypse, it seems the actual end of the world is taking its sweet time.
As someone who loves both storytelling and standup, I found that the free-form style of Seven Deadly Sins didn’t always play to the performer’s strengths. I think the strongest stories were told by people in their element, either by piecing together jokes or sticking to the page. There is a lot of room to express oneself in a show with such wide parameters and it’s not always easy to find your footing in the middle ground, although the theme did help focus and connect the stories.
Seven Deadly Sins is fun, frank and welcoming for viewers with all levels of experience in the storytelling community. For performers, I think it’s a unique and excellent opportunity to test your skills in other genres, and help cross-pollinate the creative arts in Chicago.