Sonia Denis performs in The Second City's Afro-Futurism. (Image: Clayton Hauck)


Martin Morrow (Photo: Clayton Hauck)


The real beauty of Afro-Futurism is found in its edges. The show, at Chicago’s Second City for another month, is not a product of that theater’s almost cookie-cutter traditions. Missing are the rounded corners and spit-polish sheen of its main-stage shows, engineered for passive, largely suburban consumption. Afro-Futurism trusts in the voices of its performers—the city’s finest black stand-up, improv, and sketch comedians—providing each of them with a platform from which to dazzle. Because of this, there is no standard meter to the show—more a syncopation, swinging easily between a variety of formats. All at once, Afro-Futurism functions as a hilarious stand-up showcase, a scathing indictment of America’s ascendantly regressive racial politics, and even a joyous sing-along. That it manages to do so without ever dipping in energy or feeling formless is among its greatest strengths. As a piece of live comedy in Chicago, especially one playing at The Second City, it is a necessary exhibition of brilliant comedy brimming with talented performers. From Sonia Denis’ intelligent, energetic, and delightfully mischievous stand-up to Martin Morrow’s hilarious explanation of how he came to enjoy emo music to Shantira Jackson’s poetic commentary on the world’s water crisis, the rotating cast, which also includes Dave Helem, Torian Miller, Dewayne Perkins, Felonious Munk, and Mr. GreenWeedz, provides the perfect balance of comedy and commentary. Catch the show in Chicago as soon as you can. [Becca James]

The Room Three

The Room Three (Fireproof Games)


As a dedicated Apple fanboy, I’ve downloaded hundreds of boring, disposable, and instantly forgettable mobile games on the various iDevices I’ve had over the years. Every so often, though, I stumble onto an especially sharp needle in the App Store’s haystack. Fireproof Games’ The Room series is one such needle, and the recently released The Room Three is no exception. The basic premise of the series is simple: You’re a guy in a room with a weird box on a table. You poke at the box with your touchscreen and a panel slides out with a simple puzzle. You solve the puzzle and another panel opens up, and another, and another. Eventually, you go to different rooms with different boxes, and the puzzles grow more and more obtuse as you do. There’s even a story, but it’s really just there to set the series’ spooky tone and justify the existence of these weird boxes. The real hook in the Room games is that there’s very little disconnect between the player and what’s happening on the screen, so when you pull a lever or spin a wheel in the game, you’re actually mimicking the action with your finger on your phone. It’s almost like you’re actually there, trying to open these boxes by poking and slapping at them, which is something you can’t really say for most “normal” games on PCs and consoles. (There is a PC version of The Room, but playing it that way is stupid and wrong.) Also, this series shares a name with that terrible movie everybody likes, so that’s fun. [Sam Barsanti]

RockLove’s Vikings jewelry


Like so many people, I’m a big fan of History’s Vikings series. It’s got fights, mythology, vague mentions of historical stuff that may or may not be real, and great hairdos and tattoos. In short: It’s up my alley. But how can I show the world I’m a fan without wearing some hideous Vikings-branded T-shirt or shaving my head to look like Ragnar Lothbrok? Enter RockLove’s sanctioned line of Vikings-themed jewelry and accessories, which blends subtle nods to both the show and to actual Viking history into a lovely line of wearables that’s just the right amount of nerdy. While I’ve been eyeing the Viking hairpins, I just don’t think I have enough of a mane to pull them off. Instead, I went ahead and obtained the Valhalla spike earrings, which RockLove says are “directly inspired by a fragment from the Cuerdale Hoard” and meant to “replicate an authentic 900 A.D. Viking silver treasure buried in Lancashire, England.” Made of solid sterling, they’re rather stunning, as well as totally fashionable. No one has to know I’m repping Vikings, but I am—and in a lovely way. [Marah Eakin]