The 98th Mainstage review at The Second City, directed by Matt Hovde, (Jeff winner for Best Director) features Allison Bills, Shelly Gossman, Timothy Edward Mason, Sam Richardson, Tim Robinson and Emily Wilson. This show also marks the beginning of a new era with new music director Julie Nichols.
Most of the cast from the last Mainstage production has been replaced with new talent – only Wilson and Gossman remain from the last several Mainstage shows. Overall, the addition of some new individuals is a good fit, all are talented and able to carry their own on the fabled Mainstage arena at The Second City. Mason, who has adept comic timing and a wonderful and touching moment in the show, is the strongest of the newcomers.
It’s not that there is a lack of talent that in this show, the talent pool is abundant - it is a lack of focus that needs to fine tune some of the longer scenes and heighten the stakes a bit for the show. In the bigger picture it’s no surprise that, in the end, everyone will die. So when the phrase, “everybody dies” is in the title of the revue some high stakes scenes need to play out to live up to it’s promise. However, in this revue when the end does come it seems an arbitrary choice to just fulfill the title of the show.
The cast has their best moments when improvising or turning the mirror on society in general. With the exception of one very odd jab at Obama there is little political humor – rather, this revue is a sometimes biting social commentary that targets us, the public in general.
The one stand-out scene is touching and enlightening with a dash of humor. Gossman and Mason have a discussion about the fact that everyone is an jerk (or other word not fit for print) – you just have to look at yourself and think about the terrible things we do to each other each day to recognize it. It is a nice scene with tender moments and even a hint a beauty that is not often seen in comedy revues. The only thing the scene suffers from is length – cut the scene down by a third and it would be a tightly wound emotional and existential debate with twice the power.
“Spoiler Alert” wants to turn the lens back onto us – those of us who take joy out of seeing others suffer whether it is on the street or on any number of “reality” TV shows. At some parts in the revue it succeeds well. But the consistency and through line are not there to help even the most experienced theatre-goer make the connection.
Hovde is gaining a reputation in town for his balanced shows where everyone gets a chance to shine – that is abundantly the case in this show as well. His genial humor and willingness to take slight risks are perfectly on display in this revue. However, it’s just not his sharpest. Perhaps the distracting set takes away from what could be more powerful scenes; perhaps the occasional use of props (so well used in the previous “Taming of the Flu”) distracts both the audience and cast so the full power of some scenes aren’t realized.
Whatever the reason, it’s lacking something that could make this an excellent show. But just because it falls short of excellence doesn’t mean it isn’t funny. Robinson has a great scene with wonderful moments when convincing audience members to read from his latest script. It’s a huge risk to get four audience members on-stage to do this and the pay-off is definitely worth it.
Wilson and Gossman are as solid as ever, anchoring and leading scenes that might suffer if it weren’t for their excellent comedic timing and depth of talent.
Overall more risk needs to take place for a bigger reward for this revue. While Hovde is an adept director of the tough world of improv he needs to be willing to go that next step to really mine some unique comic gold. Hopefully he will have more chances to explore both his and his casts’ talent and skills in the future.
Still, the show is sure to please you and your out-of-town guests – Second City is, if not always risky, a solid evening of entertainment.
Tickets are available by selecting Buy Tickets or by phone at 312-337-3992.
The show schedule and ticket prices are as follows:
Tuesday 8pm $22.00
Wednesday 8pm $22.00
Thursday 8pm $22.00
Friday 8pm and 11pm $27.00
Saturday 8pm and 11pm $27.00
Sunday 7pm $22.00
Above all, have fun and don’t forget to tip your waiters!