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Critic's Choice: Second City’s ‘Spoiler Alert’ review a killer

CHICAGO – Things jump into high gear quickly in Second City’s 98th revue, “Spoiler Alert: Everybody Dies” – but only after someone from the audience comes forward and pushes on the giant red button that appears on stage, the one with a sign over it reading “Press Button.”

After that, the satiric frenzy continues unabated until the lights go out some two hours later.

The witty show, directed by Matt Hovde, was written and performed by a likable cast – Shelly Grossman, Timothy Edward Mason, Emily Wilson, Sam Richardson, Allison Bills and Tim Robinson.

Even familiar targets that the revue revisits have a fresh sheen, as in the skit involving a prospective bridegroom with cold feet. His father’s shared wisdom about the joys and pitfalls of marriage does little to assuage the young man’s prenuptial jitters.

Another sketch on the weak economy finds a couple fearful that the American dream is no longer affordable. A bank loan officer gives them a rude wake-up, suggesting that be more economical and plan to “live with your mama.”

Also hilarious is the confrontation in which an employee is informed she’s being laid off by her company despite her fine performance. When asked why they singled her out, she was told it wasn’t personal: “We pulled your name out of a hat.”

Other funny business involves two professionals who have immigrated from Poland and Ghana and are running Taste of Chicago booths and critiquing Americans’ penchant for overindulgence.

The BP oil spill gets its licks, as do the Tea Party, reality TV, pet insurance, the recent marathon Wimbledon tennis match and marauding squirrels trying to raid a newly filled bird feeder.

The sketch about who is the worst liar is laced with wicked humor as is one in which a man in a bar sets his sights on a woman who appeals to him – only to find his rapid-fire imagination zipping through their entire married existence (not a sobering picture).

Also amusing is the skit about a new program called “absta-dance,” the successor to the government’s ineffective abstinence programs for deterring teen sex.

The only downside to “Spoiler Alert” – and it’s one that has plagued other recent revues – occurs during an improv sequence involving members from the audience. It’s just too darned long.

Tickets, please

What: “Spoiler Alert: Everybody Dies”
Where: Second City, 1616 N. Wells St., in Chicago
When: Open run
Tickets: $22 to $27
Show information: 312-337-3992

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