Given the nature of its comedy, Second City doesn't use a plot to connect its sketches, just a theme. This year's theme is the fact that fate is inevitable, that there's an end to life for everyone and while we're waiting for that end, there are tsunamis and nuclear collapses to experience.
But Second City attacks the grim subject with a sardonic smile. The humor they use to make their point is sometime goofy, sometimes philosophical, sometimes black, sometimes just plain weird.
|'Spoiler Alert: Everybody Dies'|
|Where: Woolly Mammoth Theatre, 641 D St. NW|
|When: Through January 8|
|Info: $55 to $82.50; 202-393-3939; woollymammoth.net|
This year's show is a mixed bag of jokes, puns, social satire and parody in which there are predictable side-swipes at Herman Cain and Alec Baldwin. The biggest problem with this production is that the comedy is uneven. Some sketches are punchier and funnier than others, like the sketch that starts with four young men in a living room watching a televised baseball game and ends as a spicy comment on society and race.
But all the actors (James T. Alfred, Aaron Bliden, Jessica Frances Dukes, Maribeth Monroe, Scott Montgomery and Travis Turner) are gifted comedians, each with his or her own strength.
Turner is an inspired dancer and singer and does a hilarious turn as a preacher leading a revival meeting. Alfred (who does a great Obama impression) does a very special dance of his own, entertaining at a bachelorette party.
Audiences will recognize Dukes as a Woolly Mammoth company member. A skilled singer and comedienne, she delivers one of the best solo sketches of the evening, in which she celebrates the absurdity of life, questioning the absence of stars on "Dancing With the Stars" and the wisdom of having weathermen stand in hurricanes to report on hurricanes.
In addition to being superstars in their individual spotlights, the troupe works beautifully as an ensemble, directed slickly by Billy Bungeroth who knows how energetically this kind of show must be paced. Colin Bills' set is a frosted glass panel hung at the back of the stage. Chairs occasionally appear, but most of this "Spoiler Alert" has the rapid rhythm of stand-up comedy.
Despite its irregular nature, what this production lacks in truly satisfying humor is made up for by the outstanding talent.