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article imageReview: Fast-paced Second City show nails all today’s big social targets Special

By Jeff Cottrill     Apr 11, 2018 in Entertainment
Toronto - It’s strange that, with all the easy material they could get from Donald Trump or Doug Ford, Second City’s cast chooses mostly to stay away from political satire in its new Toronto revue. But that doesn’t mean that the show isn’t timely.
Quite the opposite, in fact. The Best Is Yet to Come Undone, which opened on Monday night, is a fast-paced smorgasbord of comedy that never shies away from the social issues that we face every day – especially when it comes to identity politics. Racism and gender relations are common targets, and body shaming also comes up now and then. But unlike the company’s last extended-run revue, Party Today, Panic Tomorrow, this one manages to depict these issues without ever getting too preachy or confrontational. Director Carly Heffernan and the cast wisely stick to the funny here, exploiting the comedic potential of every idea and leaving the sanctimonious activism to others.
Best starts off with a ballsy scene about a very awkward date between Stacey McGunnigle and Second City Mainstage newcomer Chris Wilson, during which each keeps asking the other for permission to make the next move. “Can I get that in writing?” Wilson asks, uncertain, when McGunnigle tells him it’s okay to enter her apartment. Not only is this sketch funny, it’s also an honest depiction of a little-acknowledged side effect of the #MeToo movement – the way courtship has turned into a risky ritual in which any comment or action could be misunderstood and lead to online shaming or worse. (McGunnigle’s character is just as worried about this as Wilson’s, so there’s a fair gender balance.)
Racial privilege is hilariously skewered in a fourth-wall-breaking scene in which Wilson fills in for Brandon Hackett’s role during his venting session with Sharjil Rasool (another Second City newbie) about how white people act around them. Thus the lily-white Wilson ends up uncomfortably saying lines like, “People don’t understand my West Indian culture,” adding that it makes him “Malcolm X-hausted!” Hackett later has a musical number complaining about how Caucasians always mistake his character for Denzel Washington, as if all people of colour looked the same; this bit’s a little too obvious, but has a good punchline.
Two other sketches take on women’s body-image insecurities, with different approaches. In one, The Beaverton’s Allana Reoch plays a candy-munching twelve-year-old whose parents have shamed her into going to a Weight Watchers meeting. In another, McGunnigle and Rasool are a couple whose apartment catches fire while McGunnigle is only half-dressed – leading to fun slapstick when she can’t fit into his smaller clothes.
And there’s a great take on queer acceptance as Hackett hosts a TED Talk about how Luke Skywalker can be seen as a gay character – and then improvises an amazing “Six Degrees” trick (using audience suggestions) to show how just about any famous person has an indirect link to the musical Cats. You laugh as much as you wonder how Hackett found time to do all the research.
The Best Is Yet to Come Undone has a lot more than that. It’s so full and rich with ideas that picking out highlights is hard, and it’s so quick-moving that you may miss some good lines and gags in the blackout sketches. Improv, musical numbers, audience participation, satire, absurdity – all the standard Second City boxes get checked off, often more than once. It’s even tempting to criticize the show for trying to pack in too many ideas; perhaps some of the lesser scenes could have been cut to make room for expansion of the stronger ones. (Hackett’s angry rebuke of Rasool’s character for asking for one of his fries made me feel sorry for the latter more than it made me laugh.) But you’ll have enough of a good time not to care.
While themes related to social justice are frequent, other scenes aim straight for belly laughs without reservation. There’s a long and stupidly hilarious one with Wilson as “Luke the A-----e Magician”, an arrogant dancing twerp whose tricks always end with a literal middle finger to his audience and assistants. (David Blaine be not proud.) Wilson also shines as a pushy, gravelly-voiced sentient computer who keeps barking rejections of McGunnigle’s password and printing commands. That’s not the only swipe at modern technology, though; another sketch has a family dealing with a creepy Google Me device that goads the parents into an argument.
It’s odd that Wilson and McGunnigle seem to get many of the best parts in this revue, as the entire cast is rife with solid comedic talent. Nadine Djoury, who was so strong and funny in Party Today, has less to do this time around, but she has one big moment in a wonderful scene satirizing Tinder: her fantasies about one guy turn into a long mime-and-dance sequence about courtship and coupledom – albeit with plenty of disasters along the way.
As Second City nights go, this has one of the better wheat-to-chaff ratios. Whether it’s laughs or up-to-the-minute social satire you’re looking for, you’ll get it here.
The Best Is Yet to Come Undone is running for an extended engagement at the Second City Mainstage in Toronto.
More about Second City, Comedy, sketch comedy, Toronto, Satire
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