Second City for Mayor: Seriously Funny
By Richard Ouzounian, Toronto Star
Tough times produce terrific comedy, so you won't mind the messy shape our city is in these days if it creates a revue as smart, sassy, sexy and spectacularly funny as Second City for Mayor, which opened on Tuesday night.
This is a totally now kind of production, with director Melody A. Johnson deserving three cheers for looking at the whole notion of a Second City show in a bold new light.
She's encouraged set designer Camellia Koo to throw out the venerable wall of doors and give us a giant open fire escape, which Johnson uses for some wonderfully inventive staging, ending each scene with a striking tableau.
It also allows Steve Del Balso to splash the stage with an absolute acid-trip of primary colours.
Musical director Matthew Reid has never come up with more consistently brilliant accompaniment to the action and the whole thing clicks together with the brilliance of a well-conceived piece of theatre.
Yes, it's incredibly funny, but it's also very serious underneath, revealing an urban landscape filled with tension, insecurity and anger.
Things begin in a taxicab, where a Pakistani passenger condescends to a WASP cabbie, flinging every racist cliché on its ear, before he finally tells the driver, "You people always smell like grilled cheese!"
Political satire doesn't get much sharper than one sequence where a superhero called The Blue Falcon (bearing an amazing resemblance in Adam Cawley's sly performance to a certain TTC honcho also named Adam) is brought down by his sexual misdeeds.
Reid Janisse shines in a variety of sketches especially when improvising verses of a protest folk song called "It Could Be Worse," where audience members shout out countries more badly off than Canada. Anyone who can rhyme Lichtenstein like Janisse did is a saint.
Rob Baker is beautifully belligerent as an obsequious politician, Kris Siddiqi has a wonderfully innocent air throughout especially when he's trapped in an SM Gym called Extreme Fitness, Dale Boyer scores with her sardonic portrayal of a Cassandra-like seer ("You drive a Toyota and you will die") and Caitlin Howden convulses with her ditzy portrait of a woman devoted to her hands ("They are like the Swiss Army Knife of the body").
And believe it or not, there's also an amazing sequence where a Muslim donut-shop owner meets the man who tortured him at Guantanamo, providing laughs, chills and moral outrage all at once.
But all of Second City For Mayor is like that. No matter who wins the election, it's the victor on the comedy scene.