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Whether Bungeroth’s initial landing at the Second City was predetermined is debatable, but one thing is for sure: South Side of Heaven, a dark, emotionally charged assault on audience expectation, revels in the idea of destiny. “This is a show about how everything that’s happening is absolutely meant to happen,” says Bungeroth in March while sitting down to discuss the show’s progress toward opening.
When we speak, the eager ensemble—which includes newcomers Edgar Blackmon, Holly Laurent and Katie Rich alongside veterans Timothy Edward Mason, Sam Richardson and Tim Robinson—is about eight weeks into a process that has largely been informed by a tumultuous string of events. In January, Mary Scruggs, the head of the writing and education programs for the Second City Training Center, died suddenly. Several weeks later, longtime producer Joyce Sloane passed away just days after the theater shuttered its doors for the first time in years because of the February 1 blizzard.
It was a dark time at North and Wells, but it inspired the cast to go to edgy places normally reserved for its experimental sibling, the e.t.c. “There’s an expectation here,” says Bungeroth, acknowledging that the Mainstage’s constant nod to its esteemed alumni means audiences enter the theater with preconceived notions. “We’re aware of that and working very hard to set them up a little differently so we can do some of the stuff that we do next door.”