Second City's revues have long been a staple of Chicago's theater scene; its combination of cutting-edge comedy sketch and improv and its history of nurturing the careers of actors who have later moved on to "Saturday Night Live" (among other prestigious opportunities) helps keep its theaters full most nights. The relatively cheap ticket price, fun atmosphere and food and drink service make Second City a no-fail date choice. The tradition continues in the company's 91st mainstage revue, "Red Scare."
Like most Second City revues of late, this show is an amalgamation of songs and sketches. Director Mick Napier works to create a fugue of impressions, funny moments and sketches, and the ensemble moves in and out of them with lightning speed and impressive precision. Some moments seem to not make sense initially, but become hysterically clear when they are returned to and expanded upon later; nothing is lost or allowed to go to waste.
The ensemble in this year's show is among the best and brightest in the field, and includes Brian Boland (seen in other revues on the Second City stage recently) and Brian Gallivan (a stitch in last summer's Romeo and Juliet musical spoof at Navy Pier). Rounding out the ensemble are Jean Villepique, Antoine McKay, and Claudia Wallace.
To go into too much detail about the gags would spoil the fun, but some of my favorite moments include: a scene where a kid is forced by his teacher to come up with something nice to say to the girl next to him in class (repeatedly doing more harm than good) and a song in which the same kid explains that he will never again act up in class; he pities his teacher too much now that he knows how much (if "much" is the word) money she makes. Not that the company is timid about crossing into political territory; sidesplitting moments were also found in the Black Republican Robot scene, and the increasingly uncivil discourse between a liberal bicyclist and a conservative mom pushing a baby stroller is in the running for the funniest sketch in the show.
All of this takes place in front of an elegant yet functional set designed by Brian Sidney Bembridge; if you see plays in Chicago, odds are you've seen his work. This year's Second City mainstage revue remains a reliable source of entertainment for all ages. After the show, don't forget to stick around for the troupe's extra improv set.
Second City at Piper's Alley, 1616 N. Wells; (312) 337-3992. Tickets: $17-$19; open run: 8:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 8 and 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 8 p.m. Sunday.