Scott Sneddon is Senior Editor on SesayArts Magazine where he is also a critic and contributor.
The Second City Totally Likes You. Or so says the title of the Second City Touring Company’s latest show, which has just settled in at their downtown digs for a run until March 30.
The feeling is mutual.
Carlie Rae Jepsen’s earworm “I really like you” is the loud, infectious stinger that opens the show and provides transitions throughout. It sets the tone for a show powered by pop energy and a refreshing lack of cynicism. The Second City Totally Likes You is fast-paced, fun and tight. The show’s focus is relationships of all sorts and shapes, and its thematic coherence is a major strength. The likeable veteran cast mines this rich subject matter skillfully in a diversified series of sketches that run the gamut from on-the-nose sendups of millennials to long-form sketches on the relationship perils of streaming services . . . and just about everything in between.
Thanks to a laser-like focus on the relationship theme, a number of staple improv show elements really pop. For instance, audience callouts for metaphorical comparators to conclude the line “Sex with me is like…” yield a bumper crop of hilarity. Nicole Passmore’s improvised love song to a lucky audience member is another standout. The improvised song elements describing their “relationship” are hilarious, but her commitment to the overwrought emotionality of the moment is what tips the audience over the edge. Matt Folliott and Christian Smith play the multi-headed sex therapist being interviewed by an on-stage host and the audience. The topic of sex provides unique opportunities for them to get into hilarious, high-speed verbal synch. And Hannah Spear applies her unique gift for Gumby-like physical comedy and demented character work to numerous sketches – the best being the cringeworthy, contortionist and manipulative end of a not-great date with a crusty Matt Folliott.
My personal favorite is a long-form sketch where Andy Assaf shines as an unsuspecting passenger who climbs into an Uber – and into the midst of the fractured romantic relationship of the driver (a twitchy Jillian Welsh) and blowhard passenger Christian Smith. These gifted improvisers pretend to be unskilled normal people . . . who are trying to improvise in order to save face. This sidesplitting sketch moves in unforeseen directions towards a satisfying ending that is neither sentimental nor creepy (as I had feared).
Two minor blemishes are noteworthy only because they illuminate just how coherent, fun and winning the overall show is. A loud pregnancy-focused sketch takes a late and unnecessarily dark turn. And a musical sketch about food choices at a restaurant is noticeably off topic – though its hilarity is the clear reason it was shoehorned in.
No comedy show can be 100% be perfect. But this one – which is perfect for a date night or a group of friends on the town – is awfully close.
My bottom line: I really, really, really, really, really, really liked The Second City Totally Likes You. (And no, I haven’t been able to get that song out of my head since I saw it!)
News You Can Use
What: The Second City Totally Likes You directed by Kirsten Rasmussen | Musical Director: Ayaka Kinugawa | Stage Manager: Sam Polito
Cast: Andy Assaf, Matt Folliott, Nicole Passmore, Christian Smith, Hannah Spear, Jillian Welsh
When: On stage until March 30, 2020
Where: The Second City, 51 Mercer Street, Toronto, ON
Info and Tickets: secondcity.com
© Scott Sneddon, Sesaya / SesayArts Magazine, 2020