By: Angela Guardiani
The Second City’s 81st revue The Best is Yet to Come Undone will be my third go-round at Second City, and as always, I’m amazed at how adaptable and relevant the form can be. Sketch comedy really showcases the electric chemistry a group of performers can have with each other, sparking ideas and tossing razor-sharp dialogue back and forth like a juggler with knives. The humour comes from the keen observation of contemporary issues, the depth of the characters, and a perfect sense of timing.
This particular revue, however, doesn’t quite rise to those heights. I couldn’t tell you if it’s an odd mix of performers new to each other and not jelling into harmony, or a rushed production that’s failed to iron out the kinks, but The Best is Yet to Come Undone certainly lives up to its name.
When humour works, it seems effortless. When it doesn’t, you can sense the strain. For me, this production falls down on two particular points - story and execution. One of the strengths of Party Today, Panic Tomorrow was the thoughtfulness of the topical references - they were funny and timely and didn’t hold back, but came at the issues from a position of sensitivity. Here, there’s a deeply uncomfortable (sketch when Brandon Hackett (still the show’s only Black performer) gets “called away” from the stage and has to have Chris Wilson step in as a last-minute understudy. The gag, of course, is that Wilson - who is white - has to do Black-coded things like twerk while being extravagantly distressed that he’s being insensitive. Sharjil Rasool gamely has a go in a similar sketch, passionately defending his role as the mascot of the “St Catharines’ East Indians” baseball team to Stacey McGunnigle in drag as a gruffly paternal small-town coach. It’s an interesting premise but the performers don’t delve into it beyond the surface.
In terms of execution, there’s some strange moments. Punchlines are rushed and in a few cases the performers speak their lines at breakneck speed, leaving some in the audience bewildered and wondering what they missed. Performers break character and start giggling mid-sketch. Background music also drowns out speech. There’s a sketch with so much promise where Wilson plays a sentient version of McGunnigle’s old laptop that takes forever to boot up. I laughed and laughed as Wilson, panicked, screamed “Choose all the squares with cats! Do it!” because who among us hasn’t had to go through a series of captcha screens after forgetting a password? But just as the story was really starting to build up steam, I lost the plot as the performers sped up and talked (yelled?) over each other, turning a dialogue into noise. Was it funny? Not if I can’t hear any of it.
There’s still some bright spots - Nadine Djoury’s beautiful physical comedy doesn’t go totally to waste in a sketch about the possibilities inherent into going out of your Tinder comfort zone, and Allana Reoch and McGunnigle share a moment in an exquisite piece where an adult woman and a sixth-grader bond at a Weight Watchers meeting. It’s a character-driven slow-burn of a scene and it works because Reoch really grounds her character in something real. “You’re killing me, Heather!” has become my new catchphrase.
This is not to say that The Best Is Yet To Come Undone isn’t funny. It’s still a good-natured professional show and there were lots of laughs from the audience. It’s just that this is humour that plays it safe and goes for the easiest punchline. It’s just not the show for me, but I’ll be looking forward to number 82.
The Best is Yet to Come Undone plays at the The Second City at 51 Mercer Street for a six-month run. Tickets range from $30 - $45 and are available at The Second City box office (416-343-0011) or online at secondcity.com.